Vancouver Canucks: Projecting Bo Horvat’s contract extension

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 01: Bo Horvat
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 01: Bo Horvat /

Upon working through two NHL drafts, the Vancouver Canucks have been busy to say the least. But even before the focus shifted towards free agency, Canucks management were evaluating players and negotiating contracts; yet, the status of a Bo Horvat  contract extension remains unclear. 

For someone following the Leafs’ rebuild up close, TSN insider Jeff O’Neil’s comments regarding the Vancouver Canucks’ activity yesterday is ridiculous. Player development takes time. Bridge players fill vacant roster spots and can become trade chips.

Pre-expansion and entry draft, Canucks general manager Jim Benning signed Alexis D’Aoust and continued dialogue with Ryan Miller’s camp. Making use of their cap space to deepen weak positions in free agency, the Canucks loaded up on NHL players: Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto, Alex Burmistrov and Patrick Wiercioch.

With the Canucks now negotiating contracts, why isn’t there news regarding an extension for Bo Horvat?

A Bo-oming Talent

Signing Horvat is important. But it has not been the priority of the Canucks. Weathering the storm that was the last two weeks, solidifying next year’s goalie tandem, addressing the team’s depth, and development camp required the Canucks’ full attention.

With the dust settling, contract talk between Vancouver and Newport Sports Management Inc. shifts from Del Zotto to Horvat. Many young players earn respectable deals coming off their entry level contracts. So, how much will Horvat get paid?

Let’s get into it.

Comparable Players

Jonathan Drouin — Montreal Canadiens

I know it feels like old news already but on June 15th Jonathan Drouin was traded to Montreal and then signed a six-year deal worth $33 million. At a cap hit of $5.5 million per year, Drouin received an affordable deal; one that would be perfect if offered to Horvat by the Canucks.

At 22, both Drouin and Horvat are proven NHL players, skating in over 150 games. They were each dominant in their respected roles and put up career numbers last season – Drouin with 21 goals and 53 points, and Horvat with 20 goals and 52 points. Drouin may have more offensive upside, but as a natural two-way center on a lesser team, Horvat is also worth $5.5 million.

Vincent Trocheck — Florida Panthers

More from The Canuck Way

In the media, Vincent Trochek is often the comparable. Like Horvat, the 23-year-old progressed in his first three NHL seasons, breaking out in 2016-17 – his final season of his rookie deal. In 146 games, Trochek scored 37 goals and 83 points, earning him a six-year $28.5 million contract with a cap hit of $4.74 million a year.

Horvat’s best season with Vancouver was also in the final year of his rookie contract; however, Horvat is more experienced, having played more games. He is also more of a trustworthy defensive player.

So, perhaps Horvat deserves more than $4.75 million per year.

Victor Rask — Carolina Hurricanes

On the surface, Victor Rask’s numbers are like Horvat’s after three NHL seasons. In 242 games, Rask amassed 48 goals and 126 points that earned him a six-year $24 million contract with a cap hit of $4 million a year.

Rask is also a center, making his cap is very affordable. It is unlikely the Canucks get Horvat that cheap because, though his overall numbers are comparable to Rask’s, Horvat’s underlying statistics are superior (face-offs, giveaways, point-per-game percentage, etc).

Jonathan Huberdeau — Florida Panthers

Jonathan Huberdeau is still far from an established No. 1 center in the NHL. Regardless, he signed a six-year $35.4 million contract – $5.9 million cap hit – upon becoming a restricted free agent in 2015. Going into negotiations, Huberdeau only produced at a slightly higher rate than Horvat, scoring 38 goals and 113 points in 196 games.

Again, looking at underlying statistics, it is clear that Huberdeau – who often plays on the wing – is less of a two-way player than Horvat. If $5.9 million a year buys skill up the middle, Horvat can surely ask the Vancouver Canucks for the same deal or more since he excels in various areas of the game.

Sean Monahan — Calgary Flames

More from Editorials

Finally, we have Sean Monahan. Arguably the best player on this list, Monahan plays a two-way game like Horvat. Yet, Monahan is also an elite goal scorer. Collecting 80 goals and 159 points in 237 games under his rookie deal – 20 goals his first season and 30 the following – Monahan is a better offensive player than Horvat. And his defensive game is just as good.

Horvat may skate better, but as far as having the highest ceiling in becoming a top center in the NHL, Monahan is already there. In his second season, Monahan assumed the No. 1 role and thrived. As a result, he earned a seven-year $44.625 million contract with a $6.375 million annual cap hit.

Those $6 million per year is what several media outlets are projecting the Vancouver Canucks are going to pay Horvat. Since he is not yet a top center, nor a 30-goal scorer, if Horvat does command $6 million per year, the Flames surely got a bargain in Monahan.

Projected Contract

Now, Horvat’s camp can draw comparisons from many post-entry-level players while negotiating with the Vancouver Canucks. Above, the list shows contracts ranging from $4 million to $6.375 million. Somewhere in the middle is where Horvat should land.

Here are two projections that will best serve the Vancouver Canucks moving forward. First, a two-year bridge deal with a cap hit of $4-4.5 million followed by six years with a $6-8 million cap hit depending on his performance; or a six or seven-year contract with a cap hit of $4.5-5.5 million annually.

Next: Grading Jim Bennings 5 Free Agent Signings

Both scenarios keep Horvat away from unrestricted free agency until he is 30 years old. Horvat does not seem like the type of player who will hold off attending Vancouver Canucks training camp due to contractual disagreements. Thus, with the madness dying down, it’s safe to assume that Benning and Newport have begun talking about Horvat once again.