On the same day that the Vancouver Canucks re-signed defenceman Ben Hutton to a two-year extension, today general manager Jim Benning stated his interest in signing Bo Horvat to a long-term contract.
#Canucks GM Benning says management group will now focus on Horvat and they'd like a long term deal there, not bridge.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) November 24, 2016
The Canucks signed Hutton to what’s commonly known as a ‘bridge deal’. By signing him for just two years, it indicates that the Canucks want to see more before committing long-term.
“From our end, we wanted to see a bigger body of work and if he plays really good this year and the next two years, his play will dictate how much money he makes,” Benning told reporters on Thursday. “It gives us, from our perspective, a couple more years to judge where he should be at and where he’s going to end up.”
The trouble with a bridge deal is if the player on the verge of a breakout season, the price goes up significantly. That’s a chance Benning is willing to take.
“If he knocks it out of the park and he’s a 50-60 point guy, I don’t mind paying him.”
With Horvat, a player with more pedigree and an extra year of NHL experience, the Canucks appear more ready to make a commitment.
Horvat is in the last year of his entry-level deal that pays him $894,167 this season. His deal will be one of the most important that the Canucks sign going forward, as he promises to be a cornerstone player for the franchise for many years.
The 21-year-old finished third on the team in scoring a season ago, trailing only Daniel and Henrik Sedin, with 40 points (16-24-40). This year Horvat is tied for the team lead with 13 points (7-6-13) in 20 games despite only receiving second unit power play time.
Pegged as a strong two-way centre out of junior, Horvat’s game has surprisingly developed quicker at the offensive end than it has in the defensive zone.
Relying on Horvat to become a bonafide future #1 centre seems optimistic, but he appears like he’s a lock to be an excellent #2 two-way centre in the league.
He’s also a candidate to become a captain for this team one day.
So the question is, what is all of this worth?
Two players from Horvat’s draft year, drafted ahead of him and most certainly more valuable are Aleksander Barkov of the Panthers and the Flames’ Sean Monahan. Barkov signed a six-year $5.9 million contract last season in the midst of a season where he scored 59 points in 66 games. Calgary re-signed Monahan to a seven-year deal worth $6.375 million per season in the summer after back-to-back 62+ point seasons.
Carolina chose to go with a short-term deal for Elias Lindholm, signing him for $2.7 million per season on a two-year deal in August. Lindholm was drafted four spots ahead of Horvat and has put up similar numbers in the NHL.
Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell put up similar numbers to Horvat last season but is two years older than the Canucks centre, and signed a six-year deal last month that carries a $3,789,444 cap hit.
Sean Couturier had a larger body of work than Horvat but had similar offensive numbers when he signed his deal as a 22-year-old in the summer of 2015. The Flyers signed him to a six-year deal worth $4.33 per season.
So if Benning accomplishes his goal of re-signing Horvat to a long-term deal, we can safely assume that it will be under Barkov/Monahan and above Rakell. Horvat hasn’t proven himself to be the defensive force that Couturier is yet, but has already eclipsed the Flyers centre’s best offensive season.
If I were a betting man, I’d say Horvat will fall into the Couturier range, and a six-year deal at $4 to 4.5 million sounds fair.