Canucks expect to have Horvat signed before training camp

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With the preseason just over six weeks away, many NHL clubs are starting to field questions about their unsigned players — specifically, questions about players going into training camp unsigned.

Such is the case with Vancouver and prized RFA center Bo Horvat.

Horvat, who led the team in goals (20) and points (52) last season, has wrapped his entry-level deal and is currently without a contract. But Canucks GM Jim Benning remains optimistic about the state of negotiations, and sounds confident a deal will be done before camp.

“I think the talks are progressing and I think we’ll get something done,” Benning said, per the Province. “It’s a typical negotiation because he’s a real good player and a good person, but I’m not going to comment publicly on the negotiation process.”

Looking at comparables, it’s long been suggested the six-year, $28.5 million deal Florida gave center Vincent Trocheck was a benchmark for Horvat. That one carries a $4.75 million cap hit.

But the contract New York gave Mika Zibanejad last month might’ve changed the landscape. Zibanejad scored $26.75 million over five years — a $5.35M cap hit — and will head into the season as the Rangers’ No. 1 center.

And that’s one of the sticking points with Horvat. Is he a first-line center? The situation in Vancouver is muddled because of Henrik Sedin‘s presence, but there’s also a question about Horvat’s ceiling. He’s younger and less proven than Zibanejad, but will likely start shouldering more of the responsibilities of a high-end pivot.

If he can rise to the challenge, then Vancouver might be wise to overpay now and enjoy the savings later.