A week-and-a-half away for training camp, Bo Horvat and the Vancouver Canucks came to an agreement on a contract that will see Horvat in a Vancouver uniform—one that will probably have a C on it in due time—for at least six more years.
Although $5.5 million may seem like a lot for a forward who has only hit 20 goals and 50 points once in three seasons with the team, the contract will more than likely represent a bargain in a couple years. It’s not a problem to have your best players earn big money against the cap, but teams get into problems when they sign players for inflated contracts that they don’t live up to. In the case of the Canucks, that means players like Loui Eriksson and Derek Dorsett—but make no mistake, Horvat is the team’s best player and he deserves to be paid as such (even though the Sedins and Eriksson still make more).
It’s also essential that the Canucks were able to get Horvat under contract before the start of the season, as other teams with unsigned restricted free agents—like Detroit with Andreas Athanasiou and Boston with David Pastrnak—have seen those situations turn very ugly. Athanasiou has threatened to bolt to Russia’s KHL, while Pastrnak is reportedly asking for much more than the Bruins are comfortable giving, with TSN’s Darren Dreger speculating that it “could get greasy” in Boston.
That would be very bad if it happened in Vancouver with Horvat, as the Canucks are grooming the former 9th overall pick (for which the team traded Cory Schneider) to be the future captain. Horvat will be a massive part of this team going forward, and he deserves to be paid as such. A bridge deal (a shorter-term contract in the two- to three-year range)—as Postmedia’s Jason Botchford erroneously reported was going to be the case for Horvat—could have soured the relationship between the two. It could also have bloated the contract if Horvat ended up outperforming the money, like P.K. Subban did with the Montreal Canadiens a couple of years ago.
Subban won the Norris Trophy for best defenceman after signing a two-year, $5.75-million deal and ended up costing Montreal (and now Nashville) $9 million per for eight years. Now, Horvat isn’t going to win the Norris Trophy (as a forward, he’s ineligible), but odds are he keeps improving as a player and rounds out his defensive game.
As always, we grade contracts through both value in the deal and fit with the team.
This deal should look pretty shrewd in a couple of years, as the salary cap will probably rise and Horvat will only grow more important to the Canucks as the Sedins retire and the next wave of forwards is brought in. The only question is why it took GM Jim Benning this long to hammer out a deal for his most important player.