Bo Horvat’s new six-year, $33 million contract was the big news of the day in Canucks Nation on Friday, which of course demanded two things:
- A spirited debate amongst the locals to decide if the contract was a good one or not.
- The annual contest of roshambo where people take turns kicking each other in the genitals while speaking out loud their worst Canucks memories (it’s a weird tradition, but it’s ours. The Couve is a mysterious place).
At first glance I assumed this contract would be embraced lovingly, like a 67 cent McDonald’s hamburger on a Friday afternoon, everyone giddy with the promise of fresh meat readily within their grasp. Bo Horvat, the young stud centre, the Archie Andrews (Well I guess the Reggie if we’re talking looks) of our city being given the keys to the castle.
But we live in a new era, one with tons of statistical models and people questioning things left and right.
Don’t get me wrong, this is awesome, as sports debates in Vancouver online are much more well thought out and presented than they’ve ever been, relying less on “Nah dude, Gretzky was SO much better than Lemieux” and more “Here’s my 400 page thesis that proves that, in fact, Charlie Huddy was more important to the Oilers success than anyone else.”
The main points of contention about the Horvat deal is that the Canucks overpaid, with Horvat being paid more than other comparable hockey players. And that it continues a tradition of Jim Benning never really winning a deal, and always kind of paying or trading for a player he wishes he had, instead of what they actually are. Case in point, Brandon Sutter, Luca Sbisa, Erik Gudbranson, Loui Eriksson, Derek Dorsett, etc.
And sure, you can make the case Horvat is making a bit more coin than you’d like, but really, what choice did the Canucks have? Again, I understand overpaying on too many contracts can be a “death by a thousand cuts” situation, but let’s look at what the Canucks were facing if they didn’t lock Horvat up heading into the season:
- A fanbase angry that the face of the next Canucks generation does not have a new deal in place. As much as we want to believe hockey is a proud Canadian tradition where winning the Cup is everything, at the end of the day the NHL is a cold hard business. Ticket holders want to have something to believe in. Fans want to have something to believe in. Nickel-and-diming one of your few young bright spots would not go over well with fans that already are on edge.
- Getting into a contract dispute with a player needlessly is never a great situation. You’re essentially telling a young player, one who has done everything you’ve asked (improved his strength, gotten better at skating, produced more offensively) that they still aren’t good enough. Yes, you don’t want to give a player everything they ask for, but if it’s one of your core players, and your team isn’t in a 2011 “we’re going for it, we need players to take some small cuts in their deals” situation, then try and avoid those extended contract disputes.
- The team isn’t going to be good for the foreseeable future. Sure, maybe every single draft pick the Canucks take exceeds all expectations and they go on a magical run, but odds are the Canucks are in for some lean years. Horvat is going to be a foundational guy for a lot of those years. There aren’t a lot of top six centres in the Canucks system ready to go in the next few seasons.
- You’re paying for Horvat during the peak of his career. Even if the worst case scenario occurs, where Horvat turns into a 20-goal, third/second line tweener, and starts calling Baton Rouge after every goal, it’s still a good roll of the dice to take on a guy that might have more potential to unleash. He’s still young, and remember, Horvat could take on more power play time this year now that Jayson Megna’s dad is no longer the coach. He could help add to his point totals even more next year.
- The other option was the bridge deal, where you dare Bo Horvat to make you pony up the cash after producing two to three more outstanding seasons. That’s also a gamble, though, because if he does produce, you’re paying more (and buying more UFA years) and now he has a better case of demanding he get paid. Which sure, you’re paying for a more well known commodity with a better sample size by then, but it’s still not without its risks.
Also, think of how much fun we get to have debating Horvat’s penalty killing (trash bin fire) for six more years? That alone is worth the price of admission.
Seriously, though, the Horvat contract was a no brainer for this team. If the Canucks do happen to find themselves in a situation where the salary cap becomes an issue for them, the Eriksson contract is the one to point your fingers at and get really mad about. Benning signed Eriksson at a time when a player of his age was in no way needed for this team.
This is nothing against Loui, who by all accounts seems like a jam up kind of guy, and has really fun hair, but in no way did the Canucks need him or his contract when they signed him. It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now. That is literally the only argument you could make in Vancouver where everyone would agree with you.
You could stop bar fights at the Roxy by simply going “Can we all at least agree that the Eriksson contract is shite?” and everyone would laugh and hug it out. The poop emoji could be replaced by the Eriksson contract and no one would blink an eye.
So yes, while you can argue the Horvat contract isn’t perfect, it’s a perfectly acceptable deal for the Canucks to sign. You can question if he is worth it, or if it’s a little too much, but at the end of the day, overpaying for Bo Horvat is the least of the Canucks concerns.