The Vancouver Canucks wanted to get off to a good start in 2022-23 and avoid the drama and turmoil of last season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and they are on pace to post an even worse record by the time Dec. 6 (the date Travis Green was fired) rolls around. Currently 5-9-3 and two points ahead of last place held by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks, some fans and analysts have uttered the word “rebuild” coupled with the suggestion that only Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes should be considered untouchable.
The name on everyone’s lips when it comes to trade rumors lately is none other than captain Bo Horvat, the man who is one goal back of Connor McDavid in the Rocket Richard Trophy race and is currently in the last year of a six-year contract he signed back in 2017. At a budget-friendly $5.5 million cap hit, that number figures to skyrocket in free agency, whether he signs with the Canucks or not. On that front, things haven’t gone according to plan as talks have apparently stalled, thus initiating trade speculation and even a declaration from Craig Button saying, “It appears to me Horvat is done [in Vancouver].”
With how productive Horvat has been this season along with his age and well-rounded game – not to mention his proficiency on faceoffs, he should fetch a pretty significant package if the Canucks were to trade him. So with that in mind, I am starting a series of articles exploring different targets from teams that could use him and his skill set.
First up, the Blue Jackets, which Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff recently mentioned on Halford & Brough in the Morning as someone that could have an interest in Horvat. They already have a plethora of high-end prospects in their system but are missing a legitimate top-six center to complement the likes of veterans Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine (who aren’t getting any younger). While it could be argued that they should just “tank” and wait for Connor Bedard, Leo Carlsson, or Adam Fantilli in the 2023 Draft, a guy like Horvat could help accelerate the rebuild and avoid having Gaudreau and Laine out of their primes when their young core is ready to compete.
So, with all that said, here are three Blue Jackets the Canucks should be targeting as centerpieces in any trade involving their captain and leading goalscorer.
The Canucks need right-hand shot defencemen, no scratch that, they need defencemen period. Especially ones that are young, can move the puck and are good defensively. 18-year-old David Jiricek fits that description to a tee. Drafted sixth overall in the 2022 Draft by the Blue Jackets, he checks all the boxes of a blueliner that could one day pair with Quinn Hughes on a superstar top-pairing a la Cale Makar and Devon Toews.
Since he’s a European prospect, Jiricek was able to turn pro with the Cleveland Monsters this season and has looked pretty good so far with five assists in seven games. He also made his NHL debut on Oct. 28 against the Boston Bruins, a game he recorded 15:35 of ice time with a shot on goal and a minus-1 in the plus/minus column. He followed that up with another game on Oct. 30 in a 7-1 loss to the red-hot New Jersey Devils, again playing around 15 minutes, but this time logging three shots on goal and a minus-3. He was sent back down to the Monsters on Nov. 7.