By: Trent Leith / November 10, 2022
It is no secret Bo Horvat has put the Canucks on his back to start this season. Not only does he lead the team in goals (12) but he is second in the entire NHL behind only Connor McDavid (14). He is also the only Canuck to score a short-handed goal this season with two.
He has been a goal-scoring monster in the first 13 games but also leads the team in face-off percentage. He is boasting a 61.1% win rate, while Elias Pettersson is second on the team with 42.8% (minimum 15 draws taken). He has also taken 39% (311 of 784) of the entire team’s draws to this point in the season despite only playing about 1/3 of each game. Horvat is often put on the ice, takes an important draw, and heads back to the bench.
Bo Horvat is on another level this year and is currently the team’s best player. Being in a contract year comes with its own string of issues for the Canucks. On a team that is pressed against the cap, a player performing like Horvat is great but makes it hard to keep the captain on the team beyond the end of the season.
With the team teetering on the brink of a rebuild, signing a player like Horvat to a long-term contract when you’re already on the hook for players like OEL and JT Miller (both signed to their mid to late thirties) raises some concerns and complications.
Seeing as Horvat is the captain, there is more incentive and motivation to keep him than most other players, but with the Canucks having just signed JT Miller to a massive $8M annual, seven-year deal starting next season that carries him until he is 36 years old, it makes it hard to sign another centreman around the same age and money. Especially with Elias Pettersson due for a new contract at the end of next season.
“Our priority is to keep Bo. We recognize what he can do for us.” Jim Rutherford told the media regarding Horvat, “I give him credit, I’m very proud of him (for not being down about the contract)… I hope we can sign him but if he keeps playing like this we’re going to get a better return for him.”
That sounds like the Canucks are open to exploring trades for Bo before the end of the year. After the Canucks failed to trade JT Miller and resigned him for the next seven years, it’s clearly something they should explore. Horvat, especially if he stays in the race for the Rocket Richard, would pull a major haul, if the Canucks decide to angle toward a rebuild.
Horvat is due for a significant payday, there is no arguing that. Looking at players who scored at a similar pace last season leaves a handful of comparables. First up is Brad Marchand.
Marchand is in year six of an eight-year contract worth $6.125M a year. This contract is comparable to Horvat’s six-year $5.5M AAV contract that is about to expire. However, when Marchand signed this deal he was coming off a 37-goal season with 60 points, and his 5th 30+ goal season of his career. Marchand’s contract was widely considered a hometown discount. Marchand signed this deal while he was also 28 years old. When the deal officially hit the books, the NHL salary cap was $75M and his deal was 8.1% of the cap.
The 2022-23 salary cap is currently, $82.5M and it seems as though a hometown discount is off the table at this point for Horvat. Another factor here is that Horvat is a centre, a position that comes at a premium. Horvat is likely to sign a deal no cheaper than $7M a year, maybe as high as the $8M range. Even if Horvat took a hometown discount and was paid as a winger, if he takes the same percentage of the cap, he would be making over $6.7M a year. He will command more than that, especially on the open market.
Two more comparables come from his own team, JT Miller and Elias Pettersson. As discussed, Miller is making $8M AAV for the next seven years starting next season. While Horvat hasn’t put up the point totals that Miller did last season, he does bring more defensive reliability and last season took more face-offs with a marginally stronger FO%. In a lot of ways, when they resigned Miller, the chances of Horvat staying with the Canucks dropped significantly. This is unless the Canucks move Miller before the deadline and have enough time to re-sign Horvat.
Elias Pettersson is another comparable from a goal-scoring totals perspective. But Pettersson’s first half of the season was the worst stretch of his career and he still finished last season with one more goal than Horvat. Pettersson is also a much higher skilled player, a better playmaker and is only 23 years old. Pettersson is currently making $7.325M AAV on a bridge deal set to expire at the end of the 2023-24 season. Pettersson is on track right now to make well into the $10M AAV range on his next deal. Horvat is far from getting $10M+, but it gives you an idea of what the scoring pedigree can do for a player.
Jeff Skinner in Buffalo scored 40 goals in one season and signed an eight-year, $9M AAV deal. While his production dipped in the two seasons following, last season he seemed to get back on track with 33 goals. The 30-year-old winger is signed to a contract that many view as a poor one for the Buffalo Sabres, if Horvat can maintain his scoring rate, it’s not unreasonable for a team in the league to sign him to a comparable deal. Horvat can play up and down the lineup as a centreman. He has played many years in Vancouver in a shutdown role, and more recently in an offensively oriented role and has succeeded at both. His newfound role as the triggerman on the power play also gives him more versatility for any team looking to add him to their roster.
Horvat is a player that brings value beyond his goal-scoring, and right now, he is among the best in the league at putting the puck in the back of the net. Horvat is in for a huge payday and I would be surprised if the Canucks are able to get that deal done. Horvat might just keep scoring himself out of Vancouver.