As the trade deadline approaches, the moves are starting to heat up around the NHL. One of the biggest dominos just fell, with newly minted 2023 All-Star Bo Horvat being dealt from the Vancouver Canucks to the New York Islanders.
Horvat, who was drafted by the Canucks in 2013, is in the midst of his best season as an NHLer, with 31 goals and 54 points in just 49 games. He’s already level with his career best goal total, and is on pace to smash his highest points total of 61, however, it hasn’t translated to wins.
Vancouver sits at 20-26-3, 6th in the Pacific division and far out of playoff contention, with a significant amount of turmoil surrounding the team after the downright disrespectful firing of former Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. With former Flyer Rick Tocchet coming down from the broadcast booth to try and carve out a new team identity, the Canucks decided to part with Horvat, a pending UFA in July, and try to get a return for a player who could leave for nothing in the offseason.
The price ended up being met by the Islanders, who were willing to part with Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a protected 2023 first round pick for the 27-year old forward. All things considered, this is a solid haul for a player on an expiring deal; Beauvillier has a few years of decent NHL production under his belt, is still only 25, and definitely has a chance to break out in new surroundings. Raty is a prospect with solid pedigree, and they get a first in a 2023 draft that has more than a few heralded prospects.
What does this have to do with the Flyers? Well the situation they’re in isn’t all that different from what the Canucks face. Their number one trade chip is another forward having his breakout year.
Travis Konceny has looked like a different beast throughout this season, far and away proving that he is the best player on the roster, despite what the NHL’s All-Star selections say. He has turned into an elite offensive weapon who could play on the top line of virtually any team in the league. His 49 points in 45 games also has him on pace to surpass his career high, and it seems like at 25, Konecny is finally reaching his full potential.
But what the Canucks recently realized, and the Flyers might soon, is that having a dynamic offensive performer who is counted on to drag the team along, helps nobody.
With Bo Horvat, the Vancouver Canucks were bad. They have a lot of very talented pieces such as Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes, but they are currently still than the Flyers. What they realized was that keeping an expiring deal that they more than likely won’t be able to afford doesn’t make sense. So they cashed in while they could, and got a solid package in return.
The Konecny situation is a little different, he has two more years on his current deal, so there isn’t the same immediate pressure to make a move. He is also a couple years younger than Horvat, and has not had the same running mates to benefit from as the newest Islander did at his previous stop in Vancouver.
While Horvat may have more perceived value as both a centreman, and a more well known commodity, the fact that Konecny has two years left on a deal that looks like an absolute steal at the moment is a wild card. A team acquiring Konecny know they will have for the next two seasons at least, Horvat could leave the Isles and not even give them a chance to resign him.
And that is why it is going to be interesting to see if this forces Chuck Fletcher’s hand. The package of a young roster player, prospect, and first round pick could very well be out there for TK at the deadline, and with the reality of what the team is becoming ever more clear, Fletcher may look at this as an opportunity to refresh the roster and the prospect pool at the same time.
Now that isn’t to say the Flyers should trade Konecny for whatever is available, there is still a benefit to keeping a very talented winger to ride alongside some of the prospects that will inevitably start to pop up throughout the roster. Even if the front office came to a conclusion that they did want to deal him, they could simply wait and do it in the offseason or at next year’s deadline instead.
But the fact is, Konecny’s value has never been higher than it is right now, and if he was to be made available ahead of the March 3rd trade deadline, he would definitely be one of the more appealing names on the market. There’s even a chance that due to a bidding war between teams, or Konecny’s longer term deal, that the return he gets could surpass what the Canucks received for Horvat.
Travis Konecny is amazing, he has been one of the few bright spots in a very dim Flyers season, but the fact is, the only effect that his breakout season is currently having on the organization is that of securing them an even worse draft pick. If there is an opportunity to get a haul for him, it would be foolish not to at least take a look. And on the player’s side, TK was built for the postseason, it would be a disservice to him to waste what could be his entire prime on a team in transition who doesn’t have nearly enough talent to make any meaningful noise in April.
Trading Konecny is starting to make more and more sense by the day, and there’s a chance the Horvat deal will grease the wheels even further.