Why the Canucks Would be Wise to Sign Bo Horvat Long-Term

Ryan Biech
November 22 2016 01:22PM

The Vancouver Canucks have an interesting off-season ahead of them, with quite a few contracts coming off the books.

Some are older players heading towards unrestricted free agency, many of which likely don't figure beyond another year with this franchise. There are, however, a couple pending restricted free agents who are obvious building blocks for the Canucks to take care of, too.

I want to focus today on Bowie Horvat.

Selected 9th overall in 2013, Horvat has come in and been a bright light, and that's why the Canucks should lock him up long term, as soon as possible.

This seems like a no-brainer. The NHL is a young man's league, and Horvat is one of the best young players the Canucks have in their possession. By the sounds of it, though, the Canucks haven't started negotiations yet.

That strikes me as an odd decision. Based on the way Horvat's performed to date, you'd think it serves the Canucks short and long-term interests best to lock him up. And I've just the set of underlying metrics to prove that's a savvy decision.

The kind that could save the Canucks serious capital in the long run.

Underlying Data

Jackson covered this a few weeks back, but Horvat is an interesting case when we look at the underlying numbers. To summarize, they are not favourable, but that's due to factors mostly out of his control. Horvat's tasked with a heavy workload that he may not have been ready to handle. So looking at it quickly, you could suggest that it works in the Canucks favour. 

Story 1

Hero charts are not the gospel to assess a player, but it provides a clean look at a player's underlying information. 

As we can see, the number over the last three season suggest that Horvat is hovering around a 2nd/3rd line rate for production but falls to a 3rd/4th when looking at just his possession numbers. The context of those numbers is key.

During the 2013-14 season, Horvat was limited and sheltered as he adjusted to the NHL. As a rookie, he was getting buried. Last season, as soon as Brandon Sutter went down with injury, Horvat was tasked with pretty much everything, and like the rest of the Canucks, they were dominated possession-wise throughout the majority of the season. So far this season, that trend has continued. But Horvat is still keeping his head above water in comparison to his teammates, despite the onslaught.

This works to the Canucks advantage at this moment. You don't want to over-analyze your own players, but in this case, the information at face value suggests that Horvat hasn't excelled possession-wise, so the Canucks could use that to save money on the next contract. 

However on the flipside, positives are percolating, and if you wait too long, those positives could result in a higher AAV.

As Jackson mentions in the post linked above, Horvat's G/60 rate of .79 since joining the NHL is close to Johnny Gaudreau's production and has him among the top producers for the Canucks.

Countless analysts have proven that a player's peak is generally in their mid-twenties. By locking up Horvat through that entire timeframe, it ensures the Canucks have the young pivot for the duration of his biggest impact to the lineup.

Eye-Test

Horvat doesn't jump off the screen every single game, but when it does, you notice him. He seems to have a knack for creating something out of nothing.

Those handful of gifs are just a glimpse of what fans see when watching Horvat. You don't see the underlying data; you see a 21-year-old centre on the penalty kill leave three Buffalo Sabres in the corner, create a chance and a draw a penalty. You hear the ping of the shot as it goes bar down.

Horvat has an exciting mix of speed, puck skills and a bull rushing mentality that makes him exciting to watch. He is on track to becoming the next captain of the Canucks, or at the very least a part of the leadership group. He has the skill set to be an effective two-way forward for this team for years to come.

PR Side

Horvat is the best young player that the Canucks currently have on their roster. He is already the face of the youth movement and could become the face of the franchise. If the Canucks continue to struggle this season, signing Horvat to a long-term deal is a good PR tap-in move.

Simply put "Yes, we are struggling, but we have faith in our young players" would be the underlying message here. I might not lead to ticket purchases right away, but in the long run, it would make sense. Having Horvat locked up long-term would create a sense of anticipation for the next wave.

Horvat's side of it

Horvat has mentioned in 'hometown visits' before that he wants to be a Canuck for a long time, but this is a business. All the things I've mentioned above, his agent is acutely aware of. He will try to use these things as leverage to extract as much money as he can. Doing a bridge deal isn't in the best interest of a player like Horvat, why postpone the deal for a couple of years. Players who benefit from bridge deals are players who could see offensive explosions, so they postpone the long term deal to show what they can do.

In the case of Horvat, he has a comparable in Brandon Sutter that he can use as a benchmark.  Both were high draft picks who project to two-way centres. So given that, Horvat's representation likely use that as the 'starting point'.

Horvat may just want to wait until the end of the season before he agrees to a deal. His agent can make the argument that Horvat will be able to earn more, so waiting would be the best option in their minds. An example of this working to their benefit is Vincent Trocheck in Florida. After only posting 22 points in 50 games in 2014-15, Trocheck exploded for 25 goals and 28 assists during the last year of his ELC in 2015-16. He was able to sign a six-year deal at $4.75 million per season on July 2nd.

Conclusion

One thing that I haven't covered above, but is a huge benefit, is that it creates a cost certainty before the season even concludes. It allows the organization to know with a slightly clearer picture what to expect next summer. This can aid in trades and re-signing other players. The alternative is making moves, then trying to grind out a deal with an important part of your franchise. That likely isn't an issue, but the perception and 

There are a variety of reason's why the Canucks should be exploring the re-signing of Horvat as soon as possible, some of the reasons are below:

  • Lock up a player long term - creating cost certainty.
  • Looks good on the organization to sign a bright light to a long term deal.
  • Allows them to get ahead of the possible increases based on Horvat's progression.

It isn't of great concern that they haven't begun negotiations with Horvat, but given that Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton and Horvat are all pending RFA's - it seems like something that they will want to get a head start on. Horvat seems like the logical first step given the Canucks' uncertainty in the forward ranks going forward.

Although I do honestly believe that Horvat won't just take whatever the Canucks offer, so getting the process started now is likely the best course of action.

78be9a3630e123311d359f0f3f566561
In search of sleep, sanity, & The Shire || I watch too much hockey || I like to make gifs || Contact: ryanbiech(at)hotmail(dot)com ||