Bo Horvat’s most immediate legacy with the Canucks is having maximized his own trade value at the exact right time

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
7 months ago
The months-awaited return of former captain Bo Horvat to Vancouver is upon us.
It’s going to be an emotional evening, and we’ll tell you that for free.
Will it be a night of “Boo Horvat” or “Go Horvat”? The answer is probably a blend of both, but either way, enough ink has been spilt on the topic.
Cheer Horvat if you want, boo him if you must. The more interesting point of conversation that could be rising to the forefront now that Horvat is back in town wearing an opposition jersey is that of his personal Canucks legacy.
That legacy will forever be a complicated one, and will have little impact on how fans react in Rogers Arena tonight. But it will impact how fans begin to think of Horvat in the years to come, and so it’s probably worth some discussion now.
The accolades are obvious and barely deserve repeating. Horvat left town as the tenth-highest scorer in team history with 201 goals, 219 assists, and a BC-friendly 420 points through 621 games. Those 201 goals rank eighth overall.
He spent four seasons as Canucks captain, with the most memorable easily being his first, the 2020 Bubble Run. In general, Horvat cranked things up in the playoffs, cashing in on 11 goals and 16 points through 23 postseason games.
During his time in Vancouver, Horvat supported many local and leaguewide initiatives, and generally gave ample time to the community.
But none of that is the legacy-making that we’re here to talk about today. Instead, we’re here to talk about a more immediate legacy that Horvat forged, and then left behind, all within the space of his final season with the Canucks.
It’s a legacy that might feel a little immediate or reactionary in the present moment, but one that we feel will come to be a part of the Horvat narrative as the years go by and fans begin to reflect upon his time with the team.
And that legacy is one of Horvat having maximized his personal trade value at the exact right time for the Canucks to cash in big on him and set themselves up for success in the wake of his departure.
It’s all about the timing.
There was definitely a point in time at which a Horvat extension looked both possible and likely. But negotiations didn’t pan out in the summer of 2022, and so Horvat entered the season as a pending UFA.
By then, the team had already extended fellow center JT Miller, and if the writing wasn’t on the wall, it would be as soon as Horvat posted 12 goals through his first 13 games on the 2022/23 season.
At that point, an extension was pretty much off the table. Horvat had bet on himself and won big. The Canucks couldn’t afford to extend both Miller and Horvat well into their 30s, nor could they afford to extend Horvat at all at a rate befitting one of the NHL’s (temporary) top goal-scorers.
So, the focus began to shift toward a trade. All the while, Horvat continued to jack up that value.
What would ensue was a contained stint of play so far over and above Horvat’s career averages as to almost seem scripted.
Through 49 Canucks games to start 2022/23, Horvat scored a simply staggering 31 goals and 23 assists for a total of 54 points.
Let’s compare the numbers. Prior to this 49-game stint, Horvat’s highest goals-per-game rate in any given season was 0.44. But 31 goals in 49 games is a rate of 0.63, and increase of 50%. And as hard as it is to believe, Horvat’s 49-game hot streak also featured him notching assists at a higher rate than ever before, too. With 23 assists in 49 games, Horvat’s apples-per-game sat at 0.47, beating out his 2021/22 campaign of 0.45.
It’s rare for any player to exceed their well-established career averages by that much and for that long of a sample size. For a player to do so at exactly the same time that their team has (more or less) decided to put them on the trade market, and to keep doing it until the trade is completed, is almost unprecedented. The improbability of it all boggles the mind, as does the fact that something improbable happened in favour of the Vancouver Canucks.
On January 30, 2023, the trade occurred.
Horvat was sent, with 25% retention, to the New York Islanders in exchange for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty, and the Islanders’ (conditional) 2023 first round pick.
That’s a lot of value, and the reason for that is at least in part due to the 49-game performance Horvat put on prior to the trade call. But the benefits for Vancouver didn’t stop there.
A month later, Vancouver would flip that first round draft pick, along with a second rounder, to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Filip Hronek and a fourth round pick.
Hronek has since gone on to look like the best player the Canucks have acquired in a trade since Miller, pretty much immediately bringing as much on-ice value to the team as Horvat typically did throughout his time here.
Put it all together, and it almost looks like an act of intention. Horvat sure appears to have laid it all on the line when the Canucks needed it most (asset management-wise), and played his heart out for the sole purpose of being flipped to the highest bidder.
Which is, obviously, not what really happened. It was a contract year, and Horvat was playing for the extension that would eventually see him set for life.
But it still seems like an almost charitable act by Horvat to the Canucks, especially when what happened afterward is taken into consideration.
Following his trade to the Islanders, Horvat finished his season off with seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 30 games. For those keeping score at home, that’s a goals-per-game rate of 0.23, almost down to a third of the rate he was scoring at in Vancouver.
And, sure, it’s hard for the Islanders faithful to complain when Horvat helped drag them into the postseason. But his production hasn’t got all that much better from there. Horvat only managed one goal and one assist through six playoff games. He’s continued on to four goals and seven assists through 13 games for the Islanders on the 2023/24 season.
Again, we must circle back to that goals-per-game rate, because it really tells the story of how all this went down so perfectly for the Canucks.
Horvat’s goals-per-game in the 49 games prior to his trade? A crisp 0.63. His goals-per-game in his 43 games since joining the Islanders? A decidedly less crisp 0.32. That’s a drop of half.
So, what we’re really trying to say here is this:
Whether with any intention or not (and we’d lean toward not), Horvat put up his best extended streak of play, by far, at the exact right time for the Vancouver Canucks.
In doing so, he ensured that:
  1. The Canucks couldn’t afford to hand him what would become an onerous contract extension.
  2. The Canucks could maximize his trade value.
  3. The Canucks could use the excesses of that trade value to acquire Filip Hronek, the biggest missing piece on the roster.
And heck, we might even add a D) here about clearing the way for Quinn Hughes and the rest of the young core to truly take over the team.
Now, it’s the Canucks who have Hronek, and the Islanders who have a significantly-less-potent Horvat signed until the year 2031 at a rate of $8.5 million per season.
That, more than anything, is Horvat’s immediate legacy with the Canucks, and the thing about his time with the team that is most worthy of celebration right now.
So, sure, boo Horvat if you must. But maybe throw a few extra cheers Hronek’s way while you’re at it.

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