We’ve entered the third week of July and Bo Horvat is still waiting for a new contract.
Matt Sekeres on Bo Horvat: "I talked to someone with the #Canucks who didn't want to talk about the Horvat contract with a ten-foot pole."
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) July 17, 2017
The 22-year-old, who has already captured the hearts of Canucks Nation, is a restricted free agent and will need a new deal before next season. By no means should this be cause for alarm bells yet, but with each passing week he goes unsigned, the pressure will be turned up for both player and team.
So what is Horvat worth? Depends who you ask, and how you measure his accomplishments to date.
Horvat led the Canucks in scoring last season, albeit in a lean year. He finished the year with 52 points (20-32-52), two points ahead of Henrik Sedin. On a league-wide basis, that looks much less impressive, as he finished tied for 83rd in NHL scoring.
The young centre earned his first-ever All-Star Game selection last season, and although didn’t look out of place in the game, he quite clearly has more growing to do as a player before he should be included with the game’s elite.
He’s showing all the signs that he’ll become a very important player for the Canucks one day, and we should expect him to take another step next season.
And that’s the debate at this point for his next contract. How much do you pay Horvat based on what he has accomplished, and how much do you pay based on potential. Horvat has been pegged as a two-way centre, although advanced stats (and the eye test, for that matter) suggest he has a lot of improving left to do defensively.
To answer these questions, here are some comparable players, both in terms of age and ability, and the contracts they have signed.
Contract: 6 years, $5.9 million cap hit (signed: January 2016)
Let’s start on the high end.
Aleksander Barkov was drafted in the same year as Horvat, seven spots earlier by the Florida Panthers with the second overall pick.
Barkov stepped into the NHL as an 18-year-old, one year earlier than Horvat, so he re-signed last year.
The big two-way centre earned a six-year deal worth $5.9 million per season while in the midst of scoring 59 points in 66 games.
Barkov is on another level than Horvat, both offensively and defensively, having proven himself as a No. 1 centre already. Expect Horvat to slot in below Barkov’s dollar figure.
Contract: 6 years, $5.5 million cap hit (signed: 2017 offseason)
Also from Horvat’s draft year, Jonathan Drouin is an interesting comparable.
Like Horvat, he went back to junior for an extra season after his draft year. Unlike Horvat, he had to break into the league on a stacked team.
While they play different positions – Drouin is a winger – their numbers were similar last season. Drouin scored one more point than Horvat in eight fewer games.
Drouin received a six-year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit after his trade to Montreal last month. Will Horvat hit that number?
Might be tough, because although their numbers are close, Drouin has a higher offensive ceiling.
Contract: 3 years, $4.9 million cap hit (signed: 2017 offseason)
A year older than Horvat, Galchenyuk has two more years of NHL experience. He signed a three-year contract this offseason at $4.9 million, and you could see the Canucks making a compelling case that Horvat should come in below that average annual value.
The Montreal centre scored 56 points, including 30 goals, at the same age as Horvat. He had an up-and-down year last season though, but still managed 44 points in just 61 games.
Contract: 6 years, $4.75 million cap hit (signed: April 2017)
Florida’s Vincent Trocheck is two years older than Horvat, and took an extra year longer to surpass the 50-point plateau. The 24-year-old centre scored 53 and 54 points in each of the last two seasons, which is in Horvat’s ballpark.
Given that Horvat accomplished more at a younger age, and the fact that Trocheck was a third round pick coming out of junior, you could see Horvat’s camp demanding Trocheck money.
Contract: 6 years, $4.33 million cap hit (signed: 2015 offseason)
Also two years older than Horvat, Sean Couturier signed his contract in 2015.
Couturier doesn’t have the offensive numbers that Horvat does, having never scored 40 points in his career, but his defensive game is far superior.
Contract: 6 years, $4 million cap hit (signed: 2016 offseason)
On the low end of the spectrum is Victor Rask, a 24-year-old centre with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Rask signed a six-year contract extension a year ago after scoring 48 points (21-27-48) in 80 games. Horvat will surely surpass his dollar amount ($4 million per season), although their numbers don’t differ all that much.
Expect Horvat to receive more than Brandon Sutter ($4.375 million per season), who he has quite clearly passed on the depth chart. Conversely, Barkov’s contract ($5.9 million per season) is should act as a cap.
That leaves about $1.5 million in wiggle room, and that’s what general managers and agents are paid for. A fair contract, in this writer’s estimation, is $5 million per season on a six-year contract.