The Canucks just made what feels like their version of the Ryan Smyth trade
By Cam Lewis9 months ago
It didn’t have the same shock value or the tear-filled press conference at the airport, but the Bo Horvat trade that the Canucks made on Monday afternoon has a similar energy to the Ryan Smyth deal that the Oilers made back in 2007. A player who had thought they were going to stick with one team for their entire career instead became an Islander.
Horvat getting traded away has felt inevitable for months. Last off-season, the Canucks inked J.T. Miller to a seven-year, $56 million contract extension following a 99-point season. For a team that already had already made a lot of significant salary cap commitments, the Miller extension made the prospect of keeping Horvat around long-term pretty difficult.
Vancouver came into the 2022-23 season with their captain as an impending unrestricted free agent and the idea of getting him signed went from difficult to impossible based on his performance. Through the first 49 games of the season, Horvat has 31 goals, which matches a career-high, and 54 points.
President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford even publicly stated that getting Horvat signed wasn’t realistic for the Canucks…
“We’re in a pickle here,” said Rutherford. “The contract we have on the table for Bo right now, I think is a fair contract for what he’s done up until this year. But it’s certainly under market value for what he’s done this year.”
With Smyth, the trade came pretty much out of the blue on deadline day in 2007, but it was ultimately the result of not getting a contract extension done in the off-season. Through 53 games in 2006-07, Smyth had 31 goals and 53 points and general manager Kevin Lowe decided that the Oilers couldn’t afford to keep him around at the price he was asking for.
Smyth was traded to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson, and a first-round pick in the 2007 draft. It’s somewhat similar to what Vancouver just received from the Islanders themselves, as they got Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a top-12 protected first-round pick in the 2023 draft in return for Horvat.
The Canucks sought to balance a short- and long-term approach with the Horvat trade, just as the Oilers did when they traded Smyth.
Nilsson was New York’s top pick from the 2003 draft and he already had a 53-game cup of coffee at the NHL level and 79 games in the AHL, so the expectation was that he could step in and help the Oilers immediately. O’Marra was the Islanders’ top pick from the 2005 draft and the Oilers viewed him as a “character hockey player” who could develop into a solid two-way pivot.
Beauvillier is the young plug-and-play guy who can step in and help the Canucks right away, though the 25-year-old is only one season away from reaching unrestricted free agency. Raty is an interesting prospect with skill but he projects to be a solid middle-six centre in the NHL rather than a top-line talent.
The key for Vancouver in this trade will be what happens with the first-round pick. The Oilers wound up selecting defenceman Alex Plante at No. 15 overall with the pick they got from the Islanders, a big, physical, shutdown defender out of the WHL. New York is currently on the outside of the playoffs looking in and the Canucks will likely also wind up with a pick in the middle of the first round.
The Oilers wound up getting 199 NHL games and 98 points from Nilsson, 31 games and seven points from O’Marra, and 10 games and two points from Plante. The Canucks could wind up doing a lot better with what they got back for Horvat, especially if they flip Beauvillier for a solid return before he can walk as a free agent, but it’s a lot of ifs and maybes in exchange for a very important player.
Edmonton felt the loss of Smyth for years to come. Beyond the underwhelming return not matching his production on the ice, they lost a key presence in their dressing room, a leader who had been with the organization for years, somebody who was involved in the community, and who was loved by the fans. There was nobody who personified what it meant to be an Oiler as well as Smyth did, and that influence left the room when he did.
Horvat was an excellent Canuck, one who gave his best effort and always did what was needed from him, whether it was on or off the ice. Players like this aren’t easy to find and they’re ones that are important to have around as teams are retooling and graduating young talent to the NHL. Vancouver might learn that the hard way, just as Edmonton did.
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