The NY Islanders made a couple of gigantic transactions the last week involving 27-year-old center, Bo Horvat. Trading for Horvat and locking him up was a home run for the Islanders organization in the short and long term.
The Islanders signed Horvat to an eight-year, $68-million-dollar deal over the weekend, an annual average value of $8.5 million. It's a huge commitment but one that should reap the Isles great rewards.
Let's start with breaking down the player that Horvat currently is. Horvat is a first-line center with size (6'0, 215 lbs) that comes with a complete game. He already has hit the 30-goal mark this season (for the second year in a row), and he has been a monster on the power play scoring 117 PPGs in his career so far. When shorthanded, he's proven to be an excellent penalty killer as a strong, responsible 200-foot player. And of course, there are the intangibles that Isles GM Lou Lamoriello always looks for in a player. His leadership precedes itself as a former captain of the Vancouver Canucks, serving in that role for the last four years.
Obviously, his current season is a statistical outlier as he's shooting at a 21.1% clip, however, he was a 30-goal scorer last season where his shooting percentage was closer to his career average, shooting 16% in the 2021-22 season. So, sure, he won't continue to score at the 50-goal pace he's on now, but most clubs can live with this profile for their top center.
Recent Islander history has shown how hard it is to land a player of Horvat's stature unless of course, the organization is lucky enough to draft one. The Isles went after Steven Stamkos, Artemi Panarin, and Johnny Gaudreau in recent years just to name a few, and came up short at the end of the day. When opportunity knocked this time, Lamoriello didn't balk at the chance to make it happen with Horvat.
For the Islanders to finally land a first-line scorer in the prime of his career (turns 28 in April), it was a no-brainer for Lamoriello. Horvat checks all the boxes. He isn't just a one-dimensional scorer as a player who scores in many different ways and in the other two zones has proven to be a reliable two-way center, a monster on special teams, and the perfect character for the Islanders locker room to boot.
Yes, Lamoriello gave up a considerable amount of future talent to bring Horvat to Long Island. Aatu Räty could wind up being a really good second-line center and is only 20 years old. They also sent either their 2023 or 2024 first-round pick to Vancouver (the 2023 1st round pick has Top-12 protection). Anytime a club trades a first-round pick that has to be analyzed seven ways from Sunday. The two pieces were key for Vancouver to send Horvat to the Islanders.
That means there's a decent chance the Islanders go yet another year without drafting in the first round. Yet, there are several good players on this roster (J.G Pageau, Kyle Palmieri, Alexander Romanov) that the Islanders acquired in exchange for recent first-round picks. While having Räty as an Islander would be great for the future of the club, the Islanders don't necessarily have time to wait for him to develop and Horvat helps the Isles in the here and now.
After signing Mathew Barzal to his extension in training camp (a new eight-year contract kicks in next season at $9.15 Mil AAV) and now locking up Horvat one could ask if the Isles will be in cap hell and unable to make any more significant moves going forward. The answer to that question is no, the Isles will have the cap flexibility to make moves.
Anthony Beauviller and his $4.15 million cap hit were included in the Horvat deal in order to offset some dollars and cents. Add the fact that a couple of contracts are coming off the books in the next few summers such as Semyon Varlamov among others this July, and Josh Bailey next, and the Islanders aren't looking at that many long-term deals after the 2024-25 season. The Islanders will only have Oliver Wahlstrom's deal to figure out this summer as the pending restricted free agent is due for a new contract and he's not exactly due for a big raise. Now that Horvat is locked in, however, the Islanders are looking at $6,911,667 in cap space this summer and will have to figure out how to fit Wahlstrom under that number while also deciding if they're going to retain Varlamov and pending UFA Scott Mayfield.
An important factor in all of this too is the NHL salary cap ceiling which is expected to go up $4 million either this summer or next which would certainly give Lamoriello more flexibility this summer.
So when you add it all up between the player, the assets that were given up, and the future cap implications this deal is a huge win for the blue and orange. In terms of those haggling over that Horvat's $8.5 million AAV, well that's the going rate for a top-six center who can score, and even Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman considers the Islanders lucky as he believes Horvat could have gotten more on the open market.
The Islanders finally got their guy after season after season of striking out in this department. Now, Barzal finally has a consistent running mate with a scoring touch, a move that is certainly going to help change the dynamic of the Islanders and their future for the better.