“It still honestly hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Horvat told reporters on Thursday during media availability before the NHL All-Star Weekend. “But I’m getting more and more excited. I’m just really anxious to get going and meet the guys and get my bearings under me around the dressing room and start getting on the ice again. Honestly, this [event] is great but I want to get back at it now.”
Rumors swirled for months that the Canucks might move Horvat, who’s an impending unrestricted free agent this summer. The deal finally came to fruition on Monday when Vancouver flipped its captain to the Islanders for forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty, along with a conditional first-round pick in the 2023 draft (top-12 protected). The Canucks also retained 25% of Horvat’s salary.
It’s the first time in his career Horvat has been through a trade. The experience would be rattling enough in the offseason, but the prospect of joining a new club midway through its year presents a swath of new challenges.
“I’m so nervous,” Horvat said. “Really. I am. It’s a city that I don’t know a ton about yet. I know a couple of the guys [on the team] but just meeting all the new players and getting used to new systems, and just everything [with] the culture there, it’s nerve-wracking. I’m not going to lie. This is different for me, but I’m really excited about it.”
The Islanders are hoping Horvat will bolster their playoff prospects. The top-line forward has already tied his career-high in goals (31) in just 49 games this season. Meanwhile, New York is 25th in scoring this season averaging just 2.85 goals per game. Getting back in the postseason picture is a priority, which made trading for Horvat – despite uncertainty over whether he’ll sign long-term – the Islanders’ best decision in the short term.
New York faithful, at least, are hoping Horvat’s more than just a rental.
“Actually, somebody had a Horvat Islanders jersey here [that I signed] for the first time,” he said. “I had to really concentrate to write 14 instead of 53 today.”
Casey Cizikas already owns No. 53 in New York and so Horvat had to get creative in selecting a new sweater number of his own.
“The best way I can describe it is: four plus one is five and four minus one is three,” he said. “So that’s what I’m going with right there.”
If that equation seems complicated, it’s nothing compared to house hunting from across the continent.
“It’s been such a whirlwind,” Horvat said of finding a home. “[Me and my wife] have thought about it for sure, of what we’re going to do with the kids and where we’re going to stay. But we kind of want to get on the ground [in New York] and get our bearings, have a lay of the land. We haven’t fully decided where we’re going to do that yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen soon.”
Horvat was already headed to South Florida for the All-Star Game prior to Monday’s trade and the stopover has more meaning now that it includes a chance to connect with soon-to-be familiar faces. He joins new teammates Brock Nelson and Ilya Sorokin in representing the Islanders now and was planning to meet up with them later on Thursday.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting them,” he admitted.
Harder for Horvat were the quick goodbyes in Vancouver. He said Canucks’ Hall of Fame players Henrik and Daniel Sedin had reached out, which Horvat took as an opportunity to acknowledge “the way they’ve groomed me to be the player and person I am; I can’t thank them enough for that.”
In a strange twist, Horvat will get to share the ice with now-former teammate Elias Pettersson in Sunday’s All-Star game, since Horvat will still be repping the Pacific Division.
Like most things these days, Horvat finds the situation a little mind-blowing. And like everything else, he’s aiming to take it in stride.
“It’s going to be fun and weird and awesome at the same time,” Horvat said. “I don’t really know how to approach it or how to talk about it. I’m excited to skate with him at least on the same team for the last time.”