It’s always about the Leafs, baby. Hate it all you want, but we’re the center of the hockey universe. You can also very much say that the Bo Horvat trade doesn’t affect the Leafs? To that I’ll strongly disagree and say there are impacts to the Leafs here and there are a few lessons we can take from it, so let’s dive in to the Bo Horvat trade…
So let’s start with how Bo Horvat being off the market impacts the Leafs. In my opinion, Horvat was the big fish that addressed most of the Leafs needs better than anyone else available. I don’t think the Leafs were either particularly close on Horvat, but when you look at the term the value the Leafs closest comparison offer wise would be Alex Kerfoot, Topi Niemela, and a 2023 1st. That ignores that the Canucks might have wanted the term they get with Beauvillier, they might have wanted a forward over a defenseman, and the reality is the Islanders pick has the potential to be as high as 13th overall while the Leafs would potentially be sending a 24th overall or worse pick to the Canucks, and at the top of the draft, the draft pick value is exponentially higher. It wasn’t a bad return for Horvat, just not mindblowing and to some extent that helps the Leafs as well. Presumably for Toronto be a player here they would have needed Matthew Knies to be a part of it and with the Canucks not allowing teams to negotiate with Horvat, that’s a huge risk.
There is also the fact that the Islanders being Horvat’s destination is a huge win for the Leafs. The Bruins were figured to be frontrunners on Horvat by many, and the Atlantic Division loading up is certainly not in the Leafs best interest. That said, with Horvat gone there is the potential that teams that were prioritizing Horvat might be doubling back around to Timo Meier, where many believe the Leafs are focusing their attention, and that could be driving the price up there. It’s a mixed bag and having Timo Meier end up Boston wouldn’t be ideal either, although New Jersey and Buffalo look like they are the main competition still at this point. No matter how you look at it, Boston having to regroup after missing out on Horvat is a positive thing.
Finally, the market is set. Horvat was the top rental option and he commanded a 1st, roster player (seemingly of the salary dump variety), and a very good prospect. And the Islanders got salary retention in the process. If that becomes the price for someone like Timo Meier, that’s reasonable, but what is also great is everyone under that top tier of available players are even cheaper. It has become a lot more challenging for teams like Montreal, Chicago, or St. Louis to demand a first for players like Monahan, Toews, or O’Reilly. At least in theory. The Horvat trade has the potential to drive up costs on players like Timo Meier, Patrick Kane, or even Tarasenko as the supply has dropped, but there is still a wide open field of Plan B level top six forward options, and that could benefit the Leafs if they are reluctant to part with their 2023 1st or one of their top prospects.
So yes, while this trade doesn’t directly affect the Leafs, it does make the competition a little tighter for the best players available. No one was counting on the Islanders taking Horvat, so the teams at the top of the standings still very much need to find their players. It does set a price the Leafs can afford to pay for top talent, which is nice, but it also opens the floodgates on what might be a more unpredictable trade deadline season than initially expected.
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