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Five on the Fly | What to make of Bo Horvat’s huge deal

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Each week at Five on the Fly, we’ll preview developing storylines for the NHL’s upcoming week. Today, we’ll look at Bo Horvat’s six-year, $33 million deal and wonder what George Parros might mean for the future of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.   

Horvat’s Deal Depends on Horvat’s Progression

Opinions vary on the six-year, $33 million extension that the Vancouver Canucks gave center Bo Horvat last week. The 22-year-old became the fourth-highest-paid member of the Canucks, but many see him as the organization’s most promising talent, based on his rapid progression over the last three seasons.

Horvat has more than doubled his point total (25 to 52) from his rookie season, and over the course of his entry-level contract, the 6-foot, 223-pound center has become a phenomenal skater, lengthening his strides to generate more power and cleaning up his edge work to become more dangerous on the rush and in the offensive zone. Looking at Horvat’s deal through that prism, and based on his potential if his development continues, he’s considered a steal, and having him signed through his prime years is a great step for the Canucks to take.

Yet, there are those who look at Horvat’s defensive struggles (his 56.76 CF/60 was the fourth highest on the Canucks roster, min 500 TOI, and he was a negative possession player for the third straight season) and wonder if Vancouver general manager Jim Nill might have been better off extending Horvat a two-year, show-me bridge deal before opening the vault.

A bridge deal might have cost the Canucks an extra $2 million per season in 2019, so we think Nill got it right with the term, and probably the AAV as well.

Horvat got the same deal that Jonathan Drouin got in Montreal this summer, and he’ll earn $600,000 more per season than Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexander Wennberg. Drouin has more offensive upside than Horvat (that said, they put up nearly identical point totals last season) and Wennberg is blossoming into a bona fide No.1 center for the Blue Jackets. What about Horvat? It’s hard to say if he slots as a legitimate No. 1 center or just an exceptional No. 2 center. Either way, the Canucks haven’t committed cap suicide with this deal. If Horvat keeps improving and does become a 60-70 point per season player, then this deal is a steal. But even if he plateaus where he is, the Canucks will have money to spend on a top-line pivot down the road.

Horvat at a $5.5 million AAV isn’t a slam-dunk deal for Vancouver like, say, Nashville inking Viktor Arvidsson for seven years at $4.25 million, but given how far Horvat has come as a player in the last three years and how far he could go in the next three, this is a solid contract for both parties.

These days paying for potential is generally frowned upon in analytics circles, but in Horvat’s case, and at this price, it feels like a pretty safe bet to make.

A New Type of Enforcing for George Parros

Former NHL enforcer George Parros is saying all the right things in the wake of his promotion to head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. “Who better than me to have this job, as a guy who played as physical as anybody but was never fined or suspended?” he told Greg Wyshinski of Yahoo Sports. “I know where the line is. My job was protecting my teammates. Now, my job is protecting 750 guys.”

Parros, who takes over for Stephane Quintal, says he is eager to take a closer look at cracking down at slashing and “non-hockey” plays. Of the 791 slashing infractions last season, none was more notable than Sidney Crosby’s slash of then-Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot. For the record, Parros maintains that the play was not worthy of a suspension, but he wants all players to know that all slashing penalties will be scrutinized more closely next season.

Parros, 37, also wants players to protect themselves better on the ice. “If you put yourself in a vulnerable position at the last minute, there’s not much we can do,” Parros told Nicholas Cotsonika of NHL.com. “We’ve got to take that into account. Guy’s bearing down on you, has you lined up for a legal hit, and all of a sudden you change your position last second, that’s going to be tough. So we’ve got to make sure guys understand this.”

Jagr Pondering Olympics

Diehard hockey fans are going to have no problem getting into the Olympic Games this winter — with or without the NHL — but here’s a possibility that will make mainstream mouths water: Jaromir Jagr leading the Czechs to gold in PyeongChang.

The 45-year-old legend reportedly is thinking about playing in South Korea, but right now it’s a third option. He’s still angling for a return to the NHL first, and if that doesn’t pan out, the KHL is high on his list. But wouldn’t it be great to see Jagr use the Olympics as a platform for a late-season return to the NHL?

Prospect Watch: Rudolf Balcers Impressing in San Jose

Rudolfs Balcers is Latvian-born and played all his professional hockey in Norway until last season, when he led all WHL rookies in goals with 40. In July, Balcers signed an entry-level deal with the San Jose Sharks and hit the ground running over the weekend at the Sharks Prospect Tournament in San Jose. Balcers scored a hat trick and had four points in San Jose’s first game against Colorado, then added an assist Sunday against Anaheim. He’ll be a player to watch in the AHL this season.

RIP Pierre Pilote

The hockey world mourns the passing of a Chicago Blackhawks legend and Hall of Famer. Pierre Pilote, a three-time Norris Trophy winner, former captain of the Blackhawks and a Stanley Cup winner, will be remembered as one of the best Blackhawks to ever play the game. He was an eight-time All-Star and won the Norris Trophy three straight years from 1963-1965. When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 1961, he tied Gordie Howe for the NHL lead in postseason points with 15.

Pilote passed away Saturday night in a hospital in Barrie, Ontario, after a months-long battle with cancer. He was 85.

Stats courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com

Hero Graphic courtesy of OwnThePuck

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