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So, How Are We Feeling? Horvat Set to Represent Islanders at ASG

February 3, 2023, 12:53 AM ET [2335 Comments]
Trevor Neufeld
Vegas Golden Knights Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Saturday is going to contain one of the more surreal experiences in Vancouver Canucks history.

Fresh off of being traded to the New York Islanders for Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Räty and a top 12 protected first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft — Bo Horvat will likely be a major centre of discussion during what is a usually fairly boring event.

What may strike at the heart of Canucks faithful is that he’ll be playing for the Pacific Division during the games, but representing the Islanders during the rest of the event.

What a cherry to put on top of what has been a confusing and often miserable season. Even when they’re not playing, they’re finding ways to get you screaming at the TV.

Here is a little Pagliacci to fit the mood.

You have the unfortunate privilege of having a jaded Calgary-based writer pinch-hitting a piece your way. It’s rough seeing great players depart on less-than-ideal terms. February 9th will be indeed a strange game where many of you will get to watch Bo Horvat play against his former team. The Canucks will grow and adapt in time. The silver lining is that the upcoming changes to the team will be fun to talk about.

With that out of the way, so many questions remain with this team. Four days remain before the Canucks hit the ice against the New Jersey Devils. Since we have time, let’s look at some maneuvers that may accelerate this team getting back into contention.

Jim Rutherford classified “major surgery” as what the team would be requiring moving forward. Here comes number one with a dot.

With a 4-9-8 January, good for 31st in the NHL over that time, you could easily argue that Vancouver is already on it. Especially with their first-line center shipping out as well. Ilya Mikheyev and Tanner Pearson have been shut down and it wouldn’t be surprising if Thatcher Demko was given more games off than he would probably prefer.

A top-five pick would be huge. Connor Bedard would be a major moment in franchise history.

The only problem is the schedule. Two games against Arizona, three games against Anaheim, two against Chicago and one versus seemingly-dead Vegas are all still to come.

Making quality picks will help, but what can this team do to improve moving forward?

Get Mean
Rick Tocchet, who holds the NHL record for Gordie Howe hat tricks with 18, pointed out after last Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Kraken that the team has a lot of work to do.

“You hate to call your team soft, but it was soft tonight,”

“We didn’t participate on the wall battles. We didn’t get a rim out. We didn’t play predictable. Like, old habits came. We’re just talking to the coaching staff and, man, I wish I had about 10 practices. I really do, because it shows tonight that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Darryl Sutter, head coach of the Calgary Flames, had similar sentiments when picking up a post-Geoff Ward Flames team. There are generally wrinkles to be ironed out when a coach is axed mid-season.

Let’s take a look at the Vancouver hitting department.


When only three blue-liners have thrown more hits than Elias Pettersen by the 49-game mark — you may have a problem. For those wondering, Anthony Beauvillier won’t be moving the needle too far in any direction either. He would rank 9th on the Canucks with 38 hits on the season.

So what can they do?

Shed Cap
Naturally, finding ways out of Brock Boeser’s two more years at $6,650,000 will be an objective this offseason. The same goes for three more seasons of Connor Garland’s $4,950,000. Four more years of a $7,260,000 Oliver Ekman-Larsson certainly isn’t ideal. JT Miller is — fine. It’s best not to worry about JT Miller.

A straightforward method of shedding these contracts is surely ideal for everyone beyond Francesco Aquilini. The Minnesota Wild faced this conundrum with the Parise and Sutter contracts. Despite the dead cap, they’re sitting third in the Central Division. If Francesco were to acquiesce in executing a buyout, here’s a quick look at the remaining cap the Canucks would retain on Ekman-Larsson, Garland, and Boaser. Graphics courtesy of

Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Buyout Length: 8 years

Connor Garland — Buyout Length: 6 years

Brock Boeser — Buyout Length: 4 years

It’s a pipe dream hoping that Aquilini will endorse all three being relinquished in this manner, but it’s hard to deny that the cap space could do wonders for providing options that may lead to a turnaround.

For our last segment, let’s examine a few options that would make Vancouver less friendly on the ice. All six are unrestricted free agents this offseason.


Ian Cole — Age: 33 — Ht: 6’1” — Wt: 225lbs
The Lightning have three massive salary increases coming up for Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak and Anthony Cirelli. The three will collectively add 7.4 million to their cumulative cap hits. That essentially writes hard-nosed defenceman and his three million dollar salary out of town.

There’s a history between Cole and Rutherford. The 33-year-old won two Stanley cups during JR’s tenure in Pittsburgh. He plays an unforgiving game and would serve (hopefully) as a backup unit to Luke Schenn. Speaking of.

Re-Sign Luke Schenn — Age: 33 — Ht: 6’2” — Wt: 225lbs
It’s a contentious topic among fans whether the veteran stay-at-home defenceman should be dealt for futures this trade deadline.

Maybe it’s worth considering keeping him on and putting a “C” on him. Or, hey, put a “C” on him then trade him. It’s that kind of season.

Holding on to a bit of leadership might be a good idea. Especially when he provides a presence that the team needs more and not less of.

Carson Soucy — Age: 27 — Ht: 6’5” — Wt: 208
Rumours swirl that both Alberta teams are circling an acquisition of Carson Soucy should the Kraken choose to ship him for assets instead of losing him for nothing. There are doubts that the team will make room for an extension once he becomes a UFA.

You may remember this one.

The results of that fight don’t tell the whole story. He’s constantly making questionable hits and answering for it. Generally leading to the fight petering out. His presence in corners and in front of his own net are what make him an interesting addition. If Vancouver can find the cap space, this is one of the meaner players in the league.

Radko Gudas — Age: 32 — Ht: 6’0” — Wt: 208lbs
Starting to sense a trend? These are all very mean defencemen. They’re also all free to sign with a new team on July 1, 2023.

Gudas is the best hockey player of the group. His pairing with Josh Madura posts the highest expected goals for/against percentage among pairs playing more than 120 minutes together on the Panthers at 60.5%. With the same criteria, the pairing ranks tied for 6th place across the league.

The intangibles accompanying being a jerk are one thing, being a right-shot defenceman with advanced stats supporting his solid play might make him a bit more costly.

What about at the forward position?

Ryan Reaves — Age: 36 — Ht: 6’2” — Wt: 225lbs
With a .500 points percentage and a 9-9-2 record as of November 25, the Minnesota Wild were quietly struggling to return to playing to the potential that saw them finish with points last season.

General manager Bill Guerin pulled off an early season trade acquiring enforcer and team hype man, Ryan Reaves. Correlation is likely not causation in this instance, but the team went on a tear after adding the big man to the roster. They have a .655 points percentage since acquiring who John Tortorella once referred to as “that monster”.

He likely ends up re-signed by Minnesota, but with a seven times seven extension coming for Matthew Boldy and a small hike in cap hit from Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s buyouts — there simply may not be enough room for Reaves.

Garnet Hathaway — Age: 31 — Ht: 6’3” — Wt: 208lbs
The Washington Capitals were perfectly happy to sign Hathaway to a 1.5x4 contract during the 2019 offseason. They had Tom Wilson, but one more policeman to contribute to the dirty work was deemed necessary.

Hathaway has upheld his end of the deal. 800 hits over 251 games despite only playing an average of 12:11 a night. That ranks him fifth in the NHL over that time.

This season he’s fourth in hits across the league with 182 over 54 games.

Is this really necessary?
Los Angeles head coach Todd MacLellan said something interesting on the state of the game in an interview with Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts Podcast. Excuse the paraphrasing, but it went along the lines of:

“You still need a policeman or two in the lineup, but it’s not like the old days where you need a whole squad car.”

All six of these players are unrestricted free agents. They’re all fairly desirable in that role. One has to wonder whether Jim Rutherford’s offseason plans involve any combination of them.

Trevor Neufeld


Stats via,,, Tocchet via Rogers Sportsnet. Pagliacci, Act 1 courtesy of
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