Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat is the best player rumored to be available before the March 3 NHL trade deadline.
Horvat is 27 years old and having the best season of his career. He has tallied 44 points (29 goals, 15 assists) in 39 games. His 29 goals are the third-most of any player entering Tuesday. Horvat is on pace to score 95 points this season, which would shatter his career high of 61 set in the 2018-19 campaign.
Horvat can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Canucks and Horvat have been unable to work out an extension so far, and if he remains without a new contract as the trade deadline nears, then moving him would be the smartest decision for Vancouver. The Canucks can't let him walk for nothing in free agency.
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What's the latest on Horvat's situation?
"I don't think there's anything imminent here. I think the Canucks will go back to Horvat one more time to see if they can make a deal," Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said last Saturday.
"I think it's extremely unlikely. As we've mentioned before, they don't want to go more than what they did with J.T. Miller, so I think it's unlikely that happens. Obviously, there's going to be a ton of interest. One team I've wondered about potentially getting into this is the Seattle Kraken."
It's rare for centers of Horvat's caliber to be available. He's right in the prime of his career with an impressive two-way skill set. He can serve as a No. 1 or No. 2 center. He could potentially play at left wing for a contender that already has lots of depth down the middle.
Should the Boston Bruins target Horvat?
The short answer is yes.
Horvat could be the Bruins' top center whenever Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retire. He is one of the most complete centers in the league and also a respected leader (currently Canucks captain). The Bruins are a league-best 32-4-4 entering Tuesday and would be wise to go all-in at the trade deadline. This season is perhaps the best opportunity the Bruins will have to win the Stanley Cup for a long time. Adding some additional scoring depth would be a good area for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney to focus on before the trade deadline.
The hurdles in acquiring Horvat involve trade assets and the salary cap. The Bruins don't have the high-caliber trade assets (picks, top prospects, young NHL players) to outbid many of the other contenders. Boston's prospect pool is weak, and the team has already traded away its own second-round picks in 2023 and 2024. The salary cap also is a challenge for the Bruins in regards to Horvat. Fitting him under the cap right now would be tough as Boston has just $2,875,000 in cap space right now, per CapFriendly. Horvat has a $5.5 million cap hit for this season.
Giving up prime assets for Horvat as a rental would not be smart for the Bruins, either. A trade, with an extension soon after, makes the most sense. The Bruins did that with defenseman Hampus Lindholm last season. They acquired him in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks before the deadline and signed him to a long-term extension shortly after. That said, signing Horvat to an extension could be difficult when the Bruins already are projected to have minimal cap space in the summer, and they also need to re-sign David Pastrnak.
The Bruins don't have any glaring weaknesses. They are on pace to set the record for most points and most wins in a single season. Major changes don't need to be made. But if Sweeney is going to swing for the fences, Horvat is one player he should strongly consider pursuing.