Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports- Bob DeChiara

Who Wins a Bo Horvat for David Pastrnak Trade?

Campfires, beach days and the Boston Bruins dealing a cost controlled star right as they’re about to enter the prime of their career — it must be summer. This time it’s David Pastrnak in the crosshairs if we’re to believe this report from former general manager turned NHL Network analyst Brian Lawton.

Pastrnak, 21-years-old, just finished his third season with the Bruins, scoring at nearly a point per game pace in 75 games mostly spent on Patrice Bergeron’s right flank. He’s now in line for a new contract and a hefty raise on the entry-level deal he signed three seasons ago. By Hockey-Graphs analyst Matt Cane’s supremely accurate contract model, Pastrnak should land about $6.1-million annually. That might explain, at least in part, why the two sides are at an impasse. I’d call it the smoking gun, if not for the Bruins owning just north of $10.1-million in cap space without any salary hurdles to clear in the coming year.

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Sound familiar? In Vancouver, it’s Bo Horvat who’s mired in a summer of contract negotiations without a deal to his credit. Cane’s model doesn’t have a projection for Horvat (not that I’m aware of), but most in the industry assume his next contract will start at $5-million annually; the Canucks have just under $7.4-million cap space. The Canucks have expressed in no uncertain terms their desire to sign Horvat, and generally seem unconcerned about the possibility of this dragging on into next season.

What if the best deal the Canucks can strike with Horvat is the one that sends him out of town, though?

Is a Horvat-for-Pastrnak trade feasible, and do the Canucks come out on top in this hypothetical trade scenario? That’s the implied question TSN 1040 AM’s Matt Sekeres posed to his followers on Twitter yesterday. Based on the nearly 80 responses to Sekeres’ tweet from his followers (presumably a Canucks-fan majority) the answer is a resounding no.

They might want to rethink that. Pastrnak bests Horvat in nearly every statistical category we can account for in this stage of their young careers. Whether by cumulative or raw counting statistics, Pastrnak is the far superior player to Horvat in each measure. Pastrnak’s almost a full year younger than Horvat, too. It stands to reason then that Horvat, who’s already surrendering ground, is closer to reaching his physical peak than the younger Pastrnak.

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GP G A P PPG Corsi For% Corsi Rel.%
Bo Horvat 231 49 68 117 0.51 46.3% -2.3%
David Pastrnak 172 59 64 123 0.72 55.6% 4.9%

An obvious feather in Horvat’s cap is that he’s a centre. That adds value to the Canucks lineup that Pastrnak is inherently incapable of providing. Horvat can take faceoffs and anchor a line; there aren’t many lines, or teams, built around a right winger. Horvat’s supporting cast leaves far more to be desired than Pastrnak’s, too. That might cover some of the ground Horvat loses in an apples-to-apples statistical comparison.

With the GAR (Goals Above Replacement) statistic that HockeyData’s Dawson Sprigings developed, we can account for some of these factors. For those new to the statistic, GAR is a metric that combines a series of statistics into one currency as a starting point for analysis on any given player. Its purpose is to provide a rough estimate of a player’s impact when one combines the different ways a player helps the team — i.e. Corsi, point production, etc. The value is in aggregate, relative to a replacement level player. It’s not perfect, and it’s developers and chief proponents are the first to admit as much, but it can work as a good starting point.

In Pastrnak’s case, his 12.3 GAR puts him in elite company. Horvat’s 6.1 GAR is less than half of Pastrnak’s. This is a metric that accounts for the added value of playing centre and tries to control for teammate effects, and it paints Pastrnak as the far superior player.


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If the Bruins are looking to offload Pastrnak for contract demands they deem excessive or for any other reason, then it’s absolutely in the Canucks best interests to make that trade call. And if that means parting ways with Horvat, who’s an above average second line centre at just 22-years-old, then that’s the type of tough call they should be willing to make.

Realistically, it isn’t a call they’re ever likely to even have to consider. I don’t want to discount Lawton’s credibility, but I’ve yet to hear about Pastrnak’s supposed availability anywhere else. When TSN’s Bob McKenzie starts to speculate, it’s DEFCON 1. Until then, it’s just food for thought. But what a tasty morsel at that, in these, the dog days of summer.

  • Dirk22

    You could argue Pastrnak has more value but there is not a chance this trade would ever happen. Maybe if there were some potential top 6 centres coming through the system this could be considered. Not knowing if Petterson is going to be a wing or centre makes that position pretty vulnerable if you’re considering trading Horvat.

  • bobdaley44

    That would be a dumb trade. You think playing with Marchand and Bergeron might have inflated those stats? Trade a strong thick centre with leadership who can skate for a diminutive one way right winger? Not to mention having to pay him 7 million. No thanks.Glad the Canuck Army writers aren’t making trades.

    • andyg

      Exactly! Who has Bo had to play with that even comes close to Marchand and Bergeron?
      That sounds like Neelly 2.0 type of trade.
      Lets just lock down Bo finish the rebuild with some patients.

  • Bud the Dud

    The fans win this trade because it means Benning gets fired even sooner.

    Don’t give up the day job on the construction site JD, thankfully you will never be making an NHL hockey decision in your life.

    • Silverback

      I’d be disappointed if Benning were fired as I believe he is just hitting his stride as a a GM. He’s not the most media savy guy and looks real uncomfortable in front of the microphone. I’d spare him the stress and have someone else do the interviews (and stuff, as Benning would say). I understand Sean Spicer is looking for a job…

  • mathonwy


    I thought this was gonna be a satire piece.

    Trade Bo and our center depth becomes: Hank, Gagner, Sutter, Gaunce/Granlund ಠ_ಠ
    Trade Bo and Bae turns into an AHL player
    Trade Bo and the softest forward Canuck line up in team history officially turns into a figure skating team
    Trade Bo, extend Hank for another 5 years and hope we draft our next captain in that time frame while Hank retires at age 42… while still being relied on being our 1C.
    Trade Bo and watch Pastrnak top out as a 50 point player due to having absolutely nobody to play with.

    Come on man!

  • Justmyopinion

    From a pure points scoring POV..likely Pasternak is higher but this trade isn’t about to happen anytime soon. Horvat is a centre; Pasternak is a winger..unless Van has another equal or better centre playing at the moment..there is absolutely no reason for this trade to happen

  • LTFan

    It is definitely the “dog days of summer” with this blog. Horvat has improved every year and with a stronger prospect pool he will eventually have better numbers than last season.
    Pasternak has benefited by playing with very good players whereas Horvat has made not so good players better.
    Horvat is staying, the Canucks would be idiots to even consider this sort of deal – at least on a 1 for 1 deal.

  • Buula

    Interesting article. We all know they wont trade Bo but if Petterson and Gaudette were 2 years older this would be something to consider.

    Otherwise great article when there is nothing going on. Nice one JDizzle

  • Killer Marmot

    We often look upon trades as a zero-sum game: one side wins and the other loses. We should instead view them as attempts to improve both teams simultaneously. Obviously that doesn’t happen every time, but it often does.

    Consider one team with a lot of solid right wingers but only one decent left winger. And consider a second team with the opposite situation. Both teams can be improved by exchanging a right winger for a left winger.

    Or consider a talented player who has become estranged from management. This player is of more value with another club. Trading him for someone of somewhat less talent could improve both clubs.

    Or consider the Burrows-Dahlen trade last spring. One team wants to improve their chances in this year’s playoffs, the other wants players for the future. These differing priorities mean both teams can be improved through a trade.

    Thus a question that should be asked is “Would both the Canucks and Bruins be improved by trading Horvat for Pastrnak?”

  • Ranger2k2

    I thought this was a really interesting idea. You know it’s probably a pretty fair trade if fans from both sides are complaining about it (and judging from the comments so far Vancouver fans seem less than impressed). Bo is a terrific player and has shouldered a lot more responsibility early in his carrier than he should have. I think Bo is going to continue to get better however I don’t think he is ever going to hit the 70 point mark. He is going to be a really good 2nd line center for years to come.

    Pastrnak on the other hand is already on his way to becoming an elite scorer and even though I don’t get a chance to watch him regularly I think he is going to be a guy that is constantly in the top 20 in scoring every year.

    The Canucks have some really interesting prospects (Petterson, Boeser, Gaudette) but none of these guys are guaranteed of being a top 20 talent (like Pastrnak) or a 2nd line center (like Horvat). The Canucks management has to weigh what prospects have a better chance of working out into these roles and if not how difficult would it be to replace a player at each position. I would lean to keeping Bo because (good) centermen are much more difficult to attain than wingers. If the Canucks were to pull the trigger I think it would be a pretty confident sign they think Petterson and/or Gaudetter are going to be able to replace Bo in the short term.

  • Killer Marmot

    The Canucks have a $6 million/year right winger in Eriksson, a contract that has five years to run. Boeser’s contact will be in up in two years, and he may well be in a position to demand buckets of money.

    The Canucks should only trade for Pasrtnak if they want the most expensive set of right wingers in the league.

  • Bobaner

    Just a suggestion: Why not write an article discussing what the underlying numbers have to say about trading a potential second line centre for a first line winger? In the context the article is currently written under I think you could call it “How both teams would lose in a Pastrnak for Horvat trade”.

  • Burnabybob

    No way would I make that trade if I were Benning. Canucks already have some very good prospects at right wing. Center is a premium position, and Horvat looks like a solid second liner for years to come.

  • Gregthehockeynut

    Size, speed, grit and character at center. Bo has all these things that are in short supply on the Canucks, particularly the first three. No way anyone in their right mind makes this trade unless there is a ridiculous amount of draft choices/prospects included. As to the remark about resigning Hank for five years… I truly respect Hank for his Art Ross and iron man accomplishments but age waits for no man. I think year to year deals would be the smartest approach for the team but realistically their agent and probably the twins expectations would be 2-3 years minimum. Which means Bo is that much more important long term.

  • Ginner Classic

    That’s a lose-lose trade if ever I saw one. Both teams trading quality from positions they lack depth for a position they have depth. Is Pasta a better player? Sure. But centers are more valuable than wingers. It’s an even trade that makes both teams worse.

    • Giant-Nation

      JD Riles up the masses again, or should I say 1040 – Many have posted….lack of character on the team and you want to trade the guy with trains harder, is drago with his sleep health routine. Bo is a machine, his dedication has already ruffled many Canucks players, he is perfect guy to lead next Gen of young players, maybe when he signs his new contract more guys won’t look down on his so called anti social behaviour on the road when all he’s doing is getting better.

  • RandomScrub

    First off, I like Bo a lot. That said, it currently seems likely that Pastrnak’s going to put up more points in his career, and while Horvat was initially billed as an elite 2-way player, he’s not been a good shot suppressor at all, this may have been a miscast. However, he has shown surprising scoring ability and still has upside. Seems to me that as it stands you’re trading a scoring-oriented high-end 2nd line centre for a scoring-oriented 1st line winger. I think Pastrnak is the better player on paper but the positional needs required by each team works against this deal being beneficial to either. They both lose.

  • Silverback

    Good article, JD. I like your new found objectivity. Less snide, sneer, and sarcasm. I disagree with you on this , but is good food for thought. This is a tree I would do in a heartbeat if we had a confirmed 1c and 2c in the wings. Right now we have some good unproven prospects at centre. Can’t take the chance at this time.

  • speering major

    I haven’t seen much of Pastrnak’s play but his offensive output seems undeniable. I think it’s a no-brainer if the Canucks had just drafted Nico instead of Petterson and/or Dubious instead of Olli. The difference in having a high probability prospect like Nico backed by another in Dubious is very different than having just 1 promising #5 overall center.

    The Canucks are in a rebuild regardless. A proven scorer of Pastrnak’s caliber and age is extremely rare. It’s even Harder to acquire. The Canucks will be drafting high for the next season or two unless the Sedins don’t decline at all and a handful of young guys ALL take a big step forward. In the projected draft position, there will certainly be a high probability of a center to replace Horvat. There is a very low probability of drafting someone with Pastrnak’s offensive ability outside of winning the lottery AND in the right year