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

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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.


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.


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.

  • Burnabybob

    I haven’t watched Horvat as much as many others, as I live on the east coast, but he certainly looks good. Seems to have a good work ethic and attitude, too.

    On a somewhat-related note, it looks like the Canucks will have a chance to add a center in the 2017 draft. Even if they miss out on Nolan Patrick, that the rookie Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads is absolutley tearing it up – 39 points in 23 games, including 19 goals. That Gabriel Vilardi of the Windsor Spitfires looks pretty good, too. Further down, there is Klim Costin, C and Eeli Tolvanen LW.

  • DSP

    Don’t know if I’d call him Bowie Horvat, but agree that we need to get him locked up. He has been one of the best Canucks this year, and is always looking to become a better player. He is a great guy who can become a leader for the future of our rebuild.

  • I think Kesler is a better comparable except we don’t need a bridge contract, we know what he’s worth. Lock him up for the max term at $5M per year. Slightly lower cap hit in exchange for the long-term commitment and the absence of a bridge.

  • TheRealPB

    I completely agree with your take on Horvat and his value, especially given the extremely heavy lift he had to do being thrown into the 2C+ last year with Sutter and Henrik’s injuries and having to take an absurd number of face-offs (he was 11th in the league in FO taken, with Sean Monahan the only other really young player in the top ten).

    I don’t think you should fret so much about when he’s going to be signed though — much as with all the handwringing about whether or not Demko was going to get signed, Horvat will get re-upped in the summer after we see what his actual performance is. I would guess a semi-bridge deal of the kind we have seen with some other good but not superstar young players, north of $4 million but unless it’s a five year deal unlikely to be $5 million. It seems to me that the current admin doesn’t do a lot of in-season resigning unless it is completely perplexing a la the Sbisa and Dorsett ones.

  • Koolmoedee

    “But Horvat is still keeping his head above water in comparison to his teammates, despite the onslaught.”

    I remember when Canucks Army writers knew what relative possession stats meant.

    All those numbers, such as Relative CF/60, Relative CA/60, and Relative CD/60, compare Horvat with his own teammates.

    And relative to his teammates, Horvat has some of the worst possession stats. His shot suppression numbers are literally off the charts in the wrong direction.

    • tyhee

      1. I think the actual situation is in between Ryan Biech’s overly optimistic “keeping his head above water relative to his teammates” and this post’s “literally off the charts in the wrong direction.”

      Looking at stats.hockeyanalysis.com right now, at CA60RelTM and FA60RelTM, one finds:

      CA60RelTM-Horvat is 19th among 22 Canuck skaters presently (5 on 5, min 50 minutes played) at +4.10, a poor figure but ahead of Hansen (!?), Baertschi and, especially, Virtanen.

      FA60RelTM-Horvat’s Fenwick stats are quite a bit better-he’s at +0.32 (+ is bad for FA) which is 13th among the same 22 Canucks skaters (again 5 on 5, min 50 minutes played) and way ahead of Virtanen (whose FA stats truly are off the charts in the wrong direction at -8.06), Larsen and Granlund, all of whom have figures separated in the wrong direction from their teammates.

      As against that is Horvat’s zone starts (28.3% of faceoffs OZ, 33.9% DZ, 37.8% neutral zone) which would make a little difference-probably about enough to bring him to about even on FA, though not on CA. I haven’t attempted to adjust for strength of opponents (I’d normally try corsica.hockey, but the skaters page isn’t coming up for me right now-I keep getting a bad gateway message.)

      2. I don’t understand the arguments Biech makes in favour of locking Bo up now. There may be valid arguments in favour of that, but I don’t see them being expressly made.

      Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying it is wrong (or right, for that matter) to lock Horvat up. I’m saying I don’t see it logically argued in this article. It is more along the lines of a simplistic “he’s our best young player and looks really good despite his stats, so we need to lock him up.”

      But whether to lock up a player for a long term doesn’t depend on whether he is our best young player or whether he looks good. Those affect what his pay will be, but the length of contract should depend on the likelihood of losing the player in the future and the chances of having to pay more if the team doesn’t sign a longer term contract now. A good example of a short term contract gone wrong is in my opinionthe cheap Chris Tanev extension of 2014-1 year at $2 million-imo the classic example of a short term contract costing the team money in the long term.

      I don’t think the cost certainty argument that Biech mentioned is important at all at this stage of this season. That will change anyway as other contracts come off the books, and 2 or 3 years down the road the difference in cost between a Horvat bridge contract and a Horvat locked up for 7 or 8 years is dwarfed by other moves that will be made over the next couple of years.

      He still has 5 years to get to unrestricted free agency. The chances of losing him next summer if they don’t get the deal done right now are extremely remote. There is a long time between now and June 1, 2017. Even then, the chances of getting to or having to deal with an offer sheet are fairly small.

      Against the certainty of locking him up long term is the added certainty of paying him the big bucks whether he continues to be at his best or not. The NHL junkyard is full of long term contracts gone bad. Often that is beyond the player’s control The simplest example is a knee injury from which the player recovers enough to play but which slows the player’s skating permanently.

      Also, perhaps the Canucks would like another couple of months of seeing what Horvat can do to help assess his value. How much is it likely to matter if they make him an offer in January instead of November?

      Yes, I understand there are reasons to argue for him being locked up asap to a long term deal. I wish the article had dealt more with the arguments in favour of and against doing so rather than glossing over his stats, not mentioning his defensive play and relying on how good he looks and that he’s Canucks’ best young player.

      Yes, he’s the Canucks’ best young player-but however much a simplistic viewpoint would suggest that means we need to lock him up for 8 years right now, logically issues of whether to sign him now or later and the length of term of his contract don’t depend on whether he looks good, but on factors such as long term cost vs benefit, the likelihood of value going up or down and chance of losing the player.

      Again, it is very possible to argue logically in favour of a long-term extension for Horvat. I don’t think this article, in which the writer indicates that Bo being a bright light makes signing him soon a no-brainer-makes that argument.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Guys, I despair of you i really do. As always with my astute ELITE hockey mind, I’m looking at the BIGGER PICTURE rather than re-upping third line Bo ffs…

    WITHOUT worldclass goaltending, a top ten ELITE offensive defenceman, MORE size, speed and scoring DEPTH from the wings and the DECREPIT, UNTRADEABLE half season washout SEDINS being bought out, it doesn’t matter a jot if Bo Horvat is re-signed or not because there will be NO PLAYOFF hockey in Vancouver for the duration, and that my fickle armchair GM friends… is a FACT!

    Alas, none of the aforementioned will happen. My top UFA goalie BEN ‘lights out’ BISHOP is rumoured to off to VEGAS. My first choice UFA BRENT BURNS has today resigned with the Sharks. Bennings PLUGS will offer us nowhere near the mileage MIKE GILLIS’ did and lastly, the Sedins are going nowhere. Much like this franchise with or without Bowie bloody Horvat!

    Still, it could be worse eh, we MIGHT get a pop at NOLAN PATRICK by tanking and thankfully we are not the Flames or Desert Dogs… YET!

    Think guys THINK before you blink

    • There must be a hidden message in this post. There must be! No one could be this incoherent and rambly. Lets see… All these random capitalized words. Maybe they’re not random? Lets see:

      Elite Bigger Picture. Without Elite More Depth Decrepit, Untradable Sedins No Playoff Fact.

      UFA Ben Bishop Vegas UFA Brent Burns Plugs Mike Gillis.

      Might Nolan Patrick Yet.


      Makes more sense than the original post, anyway.

      • Hockey Warrior

        The fact that BURNS-EY ‘WAS’ a UFA, said he was keeping his options open, is Canadian and lives the hippy lifestyle embraced by one of the supposed best places to live in North America tells me YOU need to get out into the fresh air and WAKE YOURSELF UP kid. MASSIVE loss for us here folks.


        Yeh, good call with Stammer down for the season, but WHY would a contender like Tampa want these tired old slugs who would fold if they even made it to the playoffs and secondly the Bolts cap issues, like with most top tier teams, wouldn’t allow for the 14 MILLION cap hit. UN-TRADE-ABLE.

        Guys, I KNOW you are hurting like a first time buyer in the lower mainland property market BUT face the FACTS. Without the key components i have so diligently listed, coupled with the lack of an NHL COACH, there is NO PLAYOFF hockey coming to Van City any time soon… i know it and YOU KNOW IT… don’t you?

    • Saundero

      All. I have cracked the code.

      Guys, (I) despair of you i really do. (A)s always with (M)y astute elite hockey mind, I’m looking (A)t the bigger pi(C)ture rather than re-upping third line B(O) ffs…

      Without worldclass goaltending, a top ten elite offensive defence(M)an, more size, s(P)eed and scoring depth from the wings and the decrepit, untradeab(LE) half season washout(T) s(E)dins being bought out, it (D)oesn’t matter a jot (I)f Bo Horvat is re-signed or not be(C)ause there will be no playoff hoc(K)ey in Vancouver for the duration, (AND) that my fickle armchair GM fr(I)ends… is a fact!

      Alas, none of the aforementioned will (HA)ppen. My top UFA goalie Ben ‘lights out’ Bishop is rumoured to off to (VE)gas. My first c(H)oice UF(A) Brent Burns has today res(I)gned with the Sha(R)ks. Bennings (PLUGS) will offer us nowhere near the mileage Mike Gillis’ did and lastly, the Sedins are going nowhere. Much like this franchise with or without Bowie bloody Horvat(! )

      Still, it could be worse eh, we might get a pop at Nolan Patrick by tanking and thankfully we are not the Flames or Desert Dogs… Yet!
      Think guys think before you blink