The rumor mill is starting to heat up with the March 3 NHL trade deadline less than six weeks away, and the name garnering most of the attention is Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat.
The Canucks captain is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season and hasn't signed an extension with Vancouver. A trade would be the smart move for the Canucks if the two sides are unable to reach an agreement on a new deal.
What are the Canucks seeking in return for Horvat?
Sportsnet's Jeff Marek reported Saturday night on the "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcast that the Canucks want "three players, including a top prospect."
"There was a lot of talk about this in the last 24 to 48 hours," Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman added. "I think the reason is -- I'm getting the impression that Vancouver is separating the teams that are willing to consider that or continue down that level of conversation from the teams that won't. I think that's what's kinda been going on here. Vancouver is figuring out who is really serious. I don't believe there's anything imminent at this time, but I do think the Canucks know who's in the game and who isn't."
The Boston Bruins are one team that could be active at the trade deadline. They have a league-best 36-5-4 record entering Sunday. Don Sweeney has pulled off at least one pre-trade deadline deal in every season since he took over as Bruins general manager in the summer of 2015.
Even though center is not Boston's top need entering the deadline, it is a long-term positional weakness given the ages of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci and the lack of elite prospects in the system. Therefore, acquiring a player like Horvat and signing him to a long-term extension wouldn't be a bad move for the B's.
Actually making the deal could be difficult, though. The Bruins are tight against the salary cap and still haven't worked out a long-term extension with superstar right wing David Pastrnak. They also don't have the same quality of trade assets that many other contenders have to offer.
The Bruins' top prospects are right wing Fabian Lysell and defenseman Mason Lohrei. Lysell has tallied 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 25 games during his first season with the AHL's Providence Bruins. Lohrei has posted 20 points (one goal, 19 assists) in 26 games for Ohio State. Lysell has top-six potential in the NHL and Lohrei has the abilities to be a solid top-four defenseman.
The Canucks reportedly are looking for a young center in a potential Horvat deal. As we've noted before, the Bruins don't have a young center with top-six potential on their NHL roster. Brett Harrison, a 2021 third-round selection, has starred in the OHL this season with 48 points in 35 games. Matthew Poitras, a 2022 second-round pick, has posted 49 points in 37 games in the OHL. These two center prospects have exciting potential, but neither player is close to making a real impact at the NHL level right now.
Horvat is in the middle of a career year. He has tallied 49 points in 46 games, and his 30 goals scored are just one behind his career high set last season. Which team will step up and land him before the trade deadline? It's one of the main NHL storylines to watch over the next month or so.