Bo Horvat has been scoring goals at a preposterous rate for a while now, and it may be pricing him out of Vancouver
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
Bo knows goals.
And the man whose surname sounds a lot like “Score-That” certainly lives up to the rhyme.
With two more goals in Thursday night’s raucous affair against the Anaheim Ducks, captain Bo Horvat is up to ten goals through 11 games on the 2022/23 season.
For those keeping track at home, that’s a pace of approximately 75 goals if extrapolated over a full 82-game schedule.
That would be the most goals that any NHL player has scored in a single season since Alexander Mogilny and rookie Teemu Selanne each notched 76 in the 1992/93 campaign.
It’s a notably impressive start, even if one doesn’t believe he can keep that rate up — and no one should reasonably believe that he can keep that rate up. Hockey fans are far too familiar with the dangers of jumping to conclusions based on small sample sizes.
That being said, the size of the sample isn’t nearly as much of a factor here as some might think it is. Because no matter how far back one goes into recent history, Horvat has still been scoring at a truly elite clip, and it’s time for him to start getting his due as one of the league’s best snipers — both in terms of accolades, and in terms of salary.
That last bit might prove tricky for the Vancouver Canucks.
Some will remember that Horvat’s goal-scoring tear actually began well back into the 2021/22 season.
Horvat’s hot streak — if it can even be called a streak at this point — started up on March 9, 2022, with a one goal, one assist performance against the Montreal Canadiens. Since that date, Horvat has racked up an astonishing 24 goals in 29 games.
For those who don’t have their extrapolators handy, that’s a pace of 68 goals over a full season. And, sure, our more adolescent-minded readers (and writers) might wish that number were one higher, but, come on, it’s still rather astonishing, isn’t it?
For the record, that would be the most goals scored in a single NHL campaign since Mario Lemieux put up 69 (there you go) in 1995/96.
Now, we’re back on the “small sample size” and “unsustainable” argument, but it’s losing steam. A 29-game stretch is more than a third of a full season. With a multi-month gap right in the middle of it all, it’s harder and harder to look at this as a streak and not just a new standard of play, even if only a temporary one.
Horvat also has a total of 32 points in those same 29 games, a 91-point pace. But this article is about goals, darn it, and we’re sticking to it.
No matter how far we turn back the clock, the scoring rate stands out.
Horvat’s last 41 games, marking a half-season’s worth? 28 goals, good for a 56-goal pace.
His last 81 games, taking him all the way back to the start of the 2021/22 season? He’s at 41 goals.
Just for fun, if you want to tack on Horvat’s last game of the 2020/21 season to get it up to a nice, round 82-game sample, you wind up with an extra goal for a grand total of 42 goals. That’s a full season’s worth of play, spread over three seasons, in which Horvat has been putting up the sort of goal numbers that only genuine superstars ever approach.
So maybe Horvat is a genuine superstar?
Just for kicks, we turned our way-back machine back to the pre-pandemic era of early January 2020. Since then, Horvat has played in 164 games — two full seasons’ worth — and scored 70 goals, for a per-season rate of 35.
During that same period, only 20 other NHL players have scored more goals.
Take it all the way back to January 1, 2019, and you get a perfect three-season sample of 246 games, during which Horvat has tallied 92 goals. That still averages out to more than 30 per season, and is good for 31st place amongst NHLers during that same timeframe.
Put it any way you want it, Horvat has developed into a consistent 30+ goal scorer, and that might be a conservative descriptor, because he does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Which is, of course, mostly good news for the on-ice fortunes of the team that he leads. There’s just the unfortunate fact that Horvat is also a pending UFA in the final year of his contract to consider.
30-goal scorers? They get paid. They get paid the big bucks. And waiting this long to extend Horvat might end up costing the Canucks more than they can reasonably afford.
In early season negotiations, Horvat’s camp was reportedly asking for compensation somewhere in the range of $7.5 million per year. That might seem like a lot, but a casual traipse through the NHL’s cap books won’t lead you to many consistent 30-goal scorers who are paid much less than that. Those you do find were almost certainly signed before they demonstrated their true value, and are now considered to be drastically underpaid.
There are a few encouraging comparables: Kyle Connor and Gabe Landeskog leap out immediately. But Connor was signed after just two full NHL seasons, which was three full years ago, and he still ended up with an AAV of $7.143 million.
Landeskog, on the other hand, only cleared a $7 million AAV over eight years, but he clearly took a bit of a hometown discount to stay with the Avalanche, and he’s had massive injury concerns to consider. Landeskog has, after all, only cleared the 30-goal marker once in the past three seasons.
Before we get too into the weeds here, we’ll make our general point: the longer that Horvat continues to score like he has been, the higher his asking price will climb. He can cool off considerably from here and still easily notch his second 30-goal season in a row. Soon enough, $7.5 million might not be the opening offer, it might be the bottom line.
If the Canucks haven’t already reached the point at which they regret not extending Horvat sooner, give it a couple more bumper plays, and they’ll get there.
And, hey, let’s not forget that this article was solely and intentionally focused on goals, but that Horvat is the polar opposite of a one-dimensional player. He’s also a leader. He’s a faceoff-winning machine. He’s still starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone, with a rotating cast of wingers, and against far-greater-than-league-average competition.
If $7 million+ is the expected compensation for any ol’ 30-goal scorer, what should Horvat really be paid as someone who is that and so, so much more?
The answer, unfortunately, may be more than the Canucks can reasonably afford. Cap space is already tight, the JT Miller extension kicks in next year, Andrei Kuzmenko is going to need a major raise, and A LOT of money still needs to be saved for Elias Pettersson in 2024.
A hometown discount might not just be preferable at this point, it might be the only way to reasonably expect Horvat to return next season. But was that ever on the table, and if it was, is it now too late?
Bo knows goals, sure, but that also means that he knows what he’s worth, and it’s not chump change.
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