The Columbus Blue Jackets 2022-23 season has been abhorrent. After signing Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason, expectations may have been inflated a bit, but no one expected them to be last place in the Eastern Conference two weeks before Christmas. The team is weak throughout the roster and looking for whatever help they can get. However, finding a long-term legitimate centreman may be at the top of their list of needs.
The Vancouver Canucks’ Bo Horvat situation is an interesting one. He’s an experienced, legitimate top-six centreman, with leadership ability, who is surely on the move. He would make for a brilliant second-line center on a contending team as a good goal scorer with a strong 200-foot game. While the Blue Jackets have been looking for a new top-six center for a long time, Horvat is not the guy they’re looking for. Let’s look into why that’s the case.
Horvat Would Cost Too Much
Horvat has had a heck of a season and is a legitimate top-six center. Those two things would set the market value high on their own. The Blue Jackets are not a playoff team and are not pushing to win this season, so to be interested, they would need him to be more than a rental, and a contract extension would need to be signed. That increases his trade value even more.
Related: Canucks Should Target 3 Blue Jackets Players in Horvat Trade
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So let’s get down to it: What would be going back to Vancouver in a potential trade?
THW’s own Matthew Zator wrote a story earlier in the season with three players that the Canucks would have to target in a potential trade for Horvat. He came up with defenseman David Jiricek and forwards Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger. All three of those players are invaluable to the Jackets’ rebuild and would be way too much to give up. Nonetheless, I agree with him that it would likely take one of those names for the Canucks to move their captain. And if it weren’t one of them, it would have to be a package of picks and other prospects to aid in their rebuild. In either scenario, the assets given up would take away from Columbus’ own rebuild, and that alone makes the acquisition price far too high.
Not only would losing those assets make a trade difficult to stomach, but the cap space eaten up by Horvat’s next deal would make it even less palatable when considering the number of big-ticket contracts coming down the pipeline. Make no mistake, Horvat will be looking to cash in on a long-term deal for big money.
Reportedly looking for an average annual value (AAV) of around $8 million per year from the Canucks, he’d likely want more to sign long-term with the Blue Jackets. Say Horvat is looking to sign for six years, in that time, big money contracts will need to be signed by all members of the core. That means contracts to players like the big three listed above, along with other guys like Nick Blankenburg, Yegor Chinakhov, and Kirill Marchenko. That’s not even mentioning whoever the high first-round pick is that they are going to select in this year’s draft. The cap flexibility is far more valuable to the Blue Jackets in their rebuild than signing a second-line center in Horvat, who is not going to single-handedly turn them into a contender.
Horvat is Too Old
Horvat is going to be 28 years old by the end of this season, and the Blue Jackets are still at least three to five years away from being a legitimate contender. That math says he will be 31 to 33 when the Jackets’ Cup window opens. If we take the earlier cap hit of over $8 million, then he’s going to have to be the Jackets’ top center. That is not an age range that you want your top pivot to be in when hoping to start a dynasty.
Let’s take a look at the ages of the top centers in each of the dynasties over the past 15 years. Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby were 20 when the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins made their first deep playoff runs. On the older side, Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar were 24 in their teams’ first Stanley Cup Final appearances. If you can glean any bit of information from those case studies, it should be that the Blue Jackets have to draft and develop their own top pivot. Whether they’ve already got it in Johnson or Sillinger, or add one with their top pick in the 2023 Draft, that has to be the route they take to contend.
If you need another reason why Horvat’s age discounts him, the Jackets will already have an aging Gaudreau in the lineup by the time they become a contender. They don’t need two of their top-six forwards to be close to 35 years old by the time their window opens. It just doesn’t make sense.
I’m Not Sold On Horvat
I am far from convinced that we are finally seeing the emergence of the real Horvat. He is having a career year with 20 goals and 29 points through his first 28 games, which puts him at a 59-goal pace. It’s unsustainable and clearly, this season is a façade.
Horvat is a perennial 20-goal scorer. He’s hit the mark six times, including this year, and only cracked 30 goals once. The Blue Jackets would be stunting the future of their team by signing a player who generally hasn’t been much better than Boone Jenner for over double Jenner’s cap hit. They need that money and that roster space to draft and develop their own top-line center.
I get that some fans are having a tough time watching the Blue Jackets lose game after game and just want the bleeding to stop. While Horvat would make the team better in the short term, his next contract, acquisition cost, and age make him a bad fit for the organization. He should not be considered a fix for the woes in Ohio because bringing him into the picture may actually make things even worse.