What If Bo Horvat Wins the Rocket Richard?

By: Trent Leith / November 28, 2022  

It is no secret Bo Horvat can score goals, arguably better than anyone in the league right now. What happens if this trend keeps up and Bo Horvat wins the Rocket Richard at the end of the year? 

I know, there is a lot of season left for Bo to keep up this scoring pace. But Bo has been scoring at this pace since last season. Since March 15th, 2022, only two skaters have had more goals than Horvat’s 27 – Connor McDavid (28) and Kirill Kaprizov (29). That is some elite company for Horvat to be keeping. 

So let’s just say, if he can keep up this pace, if he can win the Rocket, then what? 

If he can add “league leader in goals” to his already impressive resume, Horvat will be signing a massive contract for himself. Horvat can be a powerplay trigger man, penalty killer, match-up centre or top line-centre.

There is no place in the lineup that Bo can’t play, and now he is scoring at a 66-goal pace over a full 82-game season. 

The last four players to win the Rocket Richard are Auston Matthews (2021-22, 2020-21) Alex Ovechkin (2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20), David Pastrnak (2019-20) and Sidney Crosby (2016-17). 

The salary of those players are:

Auston Matthews – $11.634M

Alex Ovechkin – $9.5M

David Pastrnak – $6.66M (pending UFA)

Sidney Crosby – $8.7M

The average AAV on these deals is $9.12M.

But AAV isn’t an accurate representation of what a Horvat deal might be worth today because the cap has risen since some of these deals were signed. Crosby signed his contract in 2013-14 when the NHL Salary cap was only $64.3M vs the $82.5M that it is today. So let’s look at percentages for these players. 

The percentages of the salary cap when the deal was signed are:

Auston Matthews – 14.2%

Alex Ovechkin – 11.6%

David Pastrnak – 8.8%

Sidney Crosby – 13.5%

The average salary cap percentage on these deals is 12.03%.

With that in mind, if Horvat was to average out these contracts he would be looking at closer to $10M coming in at $9.92M. That is not anywhere near what the Canucks can afford to pay, especially after the Canucks seemingly picked Miller long-term over Horvat. 

If the Canucks can’t keep Horvat, they need to move him before the deadline. The Canucks should have traded JT Miller last year at the deadline, draft or in the summer before signing him to a seven-year $8M deal that kicks in at the end of this season. That ship has sailed and the Canucks are unlikely to be able to trade Miller now that he is locked up long-term, but their newest trade chip is the 27-year-old captain. 

In all likelihood, it is in the Canucks’ best long-term interest to move Horvat at the deadline. It seems like the chances at a hometown discount are all but not, so his value now comes as a trade piece, and he carries the kind of value that could jump-start any sort of rebuild/re-tool effort that management may have in mind. 

If Horvat wins the Rocket Richard, as things sit right now, he will be winning it in another team’s jersey. Unless the Canucks can move JT Miller before his NMC kicks in, the Canucks need to move Horvat for some assets. 

It would also be in the best interest of the Canucks to move Horvat ASAP if that is the route that is required for two reasons. 

First, Horvat is shooting at 22.9%. Horvat has the 8th highest shooting percentage (minimum 5 goals scored) in the NHL this season. Prior to this season, his highest shooting percentage over the course of one season is 16% in 2021-22. League average shooting percentage was 9.8% last season. 

Bo Horvat’s shooting percentage throughout his career was 13.2% before this season, so we are likely to see Horvat fall 5-7% throughout the course of the season and it is one reason why the Canucks should not be waiting to shop him around. Trade him now when he is on track for 65 goals, instead of later when his numbers have likely fallen back down to earth. 

The second reason they should trade him sooner than later is the pending UFA market is going to be highly saturated with centremen this season. The Canucks should move a player now before getting stuck in a buyer’s market and leaving value on the table. 

According to CapFriendly, some of the other notable Centremen that are set to be UFAs this season are Dylan Larkin, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Max Domi, Jonathan Toews, and Ryan O’Reilly, 

If the Canucks are looking to find a dance partner for a trade, they should be shopping Horvat now vs. waiting. Reports are that the Canucks waited too long for a Miller trade and ran out of road which was a large influence in his signing this summer. This is not a mistake the Canucks can afford to make again. The Canucks need to be proactive in loading up on assets, even if that means retaining salary on Horvat. 

It will hurt to see Horvat leave the Canucks, he has been a soldier playing his entire career in some of the worst years in Canucks history and doing so with impressive results. But if the Canucks are looking to get younger and be a contending team anytime soon, they need to start being able to let go. OEL and Miller are on the books long past their prime, there isn’t any room to sign more players whose contract will largely fall in the back half of their careers. 

If the Canucks want any hope of signing Pettersson at the end of next season, they will need to leave room on the cap. A lot of room. Whatever Horvat gets on his next deal, Pettersson is all but guaranteed to top that. The Canucks have spent the better part of a decade building a team around Horvat, and they failed to give him a team worth a damn. Now it’s time to collect that L and begin focusing on building around Pettersson and Hughes.