The Bo Horvat rumor mill was already churning before Andrei Kuzmenko signed his two-year extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday (Jan. 26). Now, it’s in overdrive with reports of at least seven teams with varying levels of interest. Those teams are the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, Seattle Kraken, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, and New York Rangers.
However, according to the Toronto Star’s Nick Kypreos, there are now nine as the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils have apparently entered the fray (from ‘Why the Canucks-Bruce Boudreau fiasco is a symptom of a bigger problem for the NHL’, Toronto Star, 1/26/23). Intriguing to say the least, considering they both have high-end prospects and youngsters they could offer Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford to aid in their retooling of the franchise.
So with all that said, let’s take a gander at the Stars and what the Canucks could potentially get in return if they executed a trade with Jim Nill and company.
Last Saturday (Jan. 21), Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman reiterated the Canucks’ asking price for Horvat; three players – including a top prospect. Rutherford also said in a recent press conference that he wanted to retool his roster with players who may have fallen out of favor with their teams after their entry-level contracts (ELC).
Enter Denis Guryanov.
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After a breakout campaign in 2019-20 that saw Gurianov score 20 goals and 48 points in the regular season and nine goals and 17 points in the playoffs, he has only 24 goals in 162 games since then. During the 2020 Bubble Playoffs, he was the talk of the town, behind only Joe Pavelski’s 13 goals, as the Stars made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final against the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Unfortunately, Gurianov hasn’t been able to build upon that success and is now suffering through one of the worst dry spells of his career. With only two goals in 34 games so far and mired in a 10-game goalless streak – something he’s done once already this season – he’s struggling to regain a foothold in the NHL. Luckily, he’s not over the hill yet and could still make hay somewhere else.
Gurianov was touted as a natural goalscorer with a nose for the net when he was drafted 12th overall back in 2015. Since becoming a full-time NHLer, his biggest asset has been his speed and lethal one-timer. Except, as enticing as those traits may be, weaknesses such as a lack of hockey IQ and defensive game have reared their ugly head multiple times in recent seasons (from ‘Denis Gurianov and the Dallas Stars — 4 big questions that need answers soon’, The Athletic, 6/1/22).
Now, I know what everyone is probably thinking, why would the Canucks want a project like this? Two words: Valeri Nichushkin. When the Stars essentially gave up on him after the 2018-19 season, he was facing a lot of those same criticisms; and look at him now, he’s probably one of the top two-way power forwards in the game. He seemingly just needed a change of scenery.
Could Gurianov find that same thing in Vancouver where there’s a Russian contingent of Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, and Vasily Podkolzin?
While Thomas Harley doesn’t fill the “right-handed” checkbox, he does have a lot of traits that are desperately needed on the Canucks’ blue line right now. He’s mobile, smart, and great in transition, not to mention he’s only 21 years old. Like many young defencemen, he still has issues in his own zone, but judging by his progression in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season, those may soon be a thing of the past.
What he did is he played really hard defensively here, his stickwork, his footwork have been solid. Now, he’s been on the power play, he’s been up in the rush offensively. He’s playing a complete game at this level.
Texas Stars head coach Neil Graham (from ‘Stars’ AHL experiment with defenseman Thomas Harley has started to pay off’, The Dallas Morning News, 11/9/22)
The Stars may be hesitant to trade him, but you have to give up something to get something, and the Canucks will most definitely be asking for a young defenceman like Harley in a package for Horvat. Except for Harley and the next asset I am including in this return, an extension will have to be discussed beforehand. Otherwise, the Stars will most likely hang up the phone.
Logan Stankoven or Mavrik Bourque
As many Canadians already know, Logan Stankoven is someone that does not play to his size (5-foot-7) and gives it 110 percent every time he is on the ice. Basically, what he lacks in stature, he makes up for in heart, passion, and drive. He isn’t afraid to go to the net, battle it out in the corners or go up against forwards and defencemen twice his size. With 64 points in 28 games so far this season with his hometown Kamloops Blazers, he’s going to be a menace in the NHL one day and the Canucks would be stupid not to ask for him. Whether the Stars will be willing to give him up is another story, but you never get anything if you don’t ask.
If Stankoven turns out to be untouchable, the Canucks should ask for Mavrik Bourque. Another high-flying prospect from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), he is playing in his first full season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Texas Stars after producing an insane 93 goals and 236 points in 172 games with the Shawinigan Cataractes. He was also a menace in the 2022 QMJHL Playoffs where he accumulated nine goals and 16 points in 23 games.
Now with the Stars’ AHL affiliate, Bourque has a decent eight goals and 22 points in 38 games and has been said to have top-line potential in the NHL. Blessed with supreme hockey sense, playmaking abilities, and a wicked shot, he has all the tools to be a difference-maker at the next level.
Other Potential Targets: 2024 first-round pick, Ty Dellandrea, Radek Faksa, Lian Bichsel
Stars Have a Good Chance to Acquire Horvat
It’s easy to see why Nill is rumored to be in the running for Horvat’s services as his team appears to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this season. With a lethal top line featuring Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Roope Hintz, all they need is more depth. That’s where Horvat could step in and potentially team up with the big-money duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to create a dangerous second wave of attack. All in all the Stars have the pieces to enter the potential bidding war, now they just have to be willing to meet the high price Rutherford and Allvin have set for their captain.
As for the Canucks, these are the types of teams they should be negotiating with – organizations that possess high-end prospects. Now we wait, as the Horvat sweepstakes will only get more heated as the clock ticks closer and closer to the 3 pm ET deadline on March 3. Where will he end up? That’s the question that will be on everyone’s mind for the next month or so.
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.
Matthew also co-hosts The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner on YouTube.