Should the Flyers Pursue Bo Horvat?

It’s no secret the Philadelphia Flyers desperately need to address their center depth during the 2023 offseason and should look into every option to fill the missing holes down the middle. Bo Horvat, who currently plays for the Vancouver Canucks and is a pending unrestricted free agent, has found himself on the trade block during a season when the Canucks are in turmoil.

Horvat, who will turn 28 in April, is one of the biggest names potentially available during the 2023 free agency. He’s coming off a career best 31-goal season and has already racked up 19 goals and 26 points in 25 games during the 2022-23 campaign as well. He has 189 goals and 392 points in 597 career games over nine NHL seasons. He’s historically hovered around the 20-goal, 50-point mark, though he’s working on two consecutive season of 30+ goals, so it’s possible he has unlocked a new level of his game where he’s becoming a more consistent goal scoring threat.

He was named captain of the Canucks to start the 2019-20 season, though the team has gone through quite a tailspin under his watch. The Canucks fired GM Jim Benning, head coach Travis Green, assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner and assistant GM John Weisbrod during the 2020-21 season and, thanks to a 9-10-3 start, could undergo more changes, this time from a roster personnel standpoint.

The Canucks have very much been a west coast version of the Flyers in the sense of the roster being a discombobulated mess and the front office being completely off the rails for most of the last few years as well. The two organizations could be natural trade partners during the season in an effort to shakeup both franchises.

Horvat could make it to the wild west of free agency, but he could also be dealt at the deadline as a high-end rental center for a playoff team, but the Flyers could also throw their hat in the ring as an attempt to lock up a top center going into next season.

It may seem counterintuitive for a team like the Flyers to be buyers at the trade deadline of a completely lost season where the playoffs aren’t going to happen, but if it comes at the price of securing talent for the future, it may have to be an avenue they go down. It may be easier to give up an asset or two and potentially save a chunk of change when it comes to re-signing him than it would be to flat out overpay the guy in free agency.

Reality is, the Flyers need center depth and are going to have to pay up one way or another to get it. Horvat may not be the tippy top among the free agent centers, but he’s certainly top three, which by default means the Flyers need to be interested in his services. Even if the Flyers attempt yet another screwed up version of a “rebuild” at least one proven center down the middle next year, as Kevin Hayes, Morgan Frost and the returning corpse of Sean Couturier are just pathetic, even for a team trying to lose.

There is a loose Flyers connection with Horvat; he’s cousins with Travis Konecny. Considering Teeks is playing some very good hockey this season and may have very well worked himself back into a pillar of the organization’s forward corps because of it, adding a well known relative for him to line up with may be a sneaky smart move. Whether or not the Flyers pursue him before he reaches free agency seems unlikely (in fact, the Flyers making any trade of substance at all feels unlikely), but it’s a path that needs to be explored, if for no other reason than doing their due diligence.

Even if Flyers continue their tailspin into next season, they’re going to have to address their center depth with some kind of legitimacy. Their failures to address the needs at C over the last few years have caused the team to fail before the season even begins. And Horvat may be the guy who can improve the position without being too much of an upgrade that it’ll blow their chances of tanking if that is indeed the path they go down once again. Reality is, even if Sean Couturier returns next year at a somewhat normal level, he’ll be 30 years old and coming off multiple back surgeries with six seasons left on his deal. The Flyers should, at the bare minimum, find someone like Horvat to come in and tandem with Couturier to ease his workload and extend the lifespan of whatever he’s got left in the tank.

Who knows who’s GM by the time the offseason rolls around, but they’re going to have plenty to deal with during the 2023 offseason, and attempting to snag at least one of the many esteemed free agents that could hit the market in July will be high on the priority list. Do the Flyers have the cash to even attempt to sign Horvat? Do they commit to a non-homegrown 28-year-old for seven years? There are plenty of questions, but there are some risks that just have to be taken when the fate of the franchise depends on the outcome of the offseason.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com

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