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A Special Place In Valhalla Awaits Patric Hornqvist

Patric Hornqvist is a free agent at the end of the year. Here’s hoping he’s in the flightless bird uniform for a few more years.

Next Friday, Thor: Ragnarok will be opening in theaters. It will detail the adventures of very powerful and magical Viking gods. For the past three years, the Penguins have had their own powerful Viking in the form of Patric Hornqvist.

Hornqvist came over in a deal with Nashville (along with Nick Spaling) for James Neal back in June 2014, one of Jim Rutherford’s first moves. Neal was an enigmatic sniper, but had personality quirks both on and off the ice. Hornqvist was not brought in to replace Neal’s 30+ goal potential. He was brought in to provide a solid net front presence and do dirty work. What wasn’t fully expected was how well Hornqvist would mesh with the rest of the locker room and become the key catalyst in their chemical reaction.

Every Penguin to a man says that Patric Hornqvist is vital to keeping the locker room loose with his infectious energy and love of the game. Hornqvist never stops, both on and off the ice. Ian Cole said it best in the warm afterglow of the Stanley Cup this past June — “His motor is going all the time. He is crazy, but in the best way possible. He is so intense, all the time.”

Hornqvist broke his hand during the Eastern Conference Final. Because he’s a warrior and a hockey player, he kept playing. In the summer, he needed to get surgery to repair the hand and his recovery stretched into the first couple of games of the season. When he returned against the Penguins’ bitter rivals, the Capitals, last week, he immediately did this:

Through his first seven games, Hornqvist has tallied 3 goals and 2 assists, while doing his best impression of an immovable redwood tree on the power play in front of the opponent’s net. In other words, business as usual.

Patric Hornqvist’s contract is up after this season. This is his age-31 season, but he clearly is showing no signs of slowing down. Hornqvist is on a $4.25M cap hit and Carl Hagelin is playing on a $4M cap hit this season. In a perfect world, their contract terms would be reversed, as Hagelin still has one more season after this one on his deal. Hagelin provides blinding speed, but his finishing skills have always been what has held him back from jumping to the next level. I would much rather see Hagelin’s contract expiring than Hornqvist’s.

It’s hard to be sure about anything in the world of sports and contracts, but I’m at least 93.7% sure that Hornqvist will be either extended by Rutherford during this season or re-signed in the summer. Team chemistry is impossible to quantify and it’s easy to have it when the team is winning, but Hornqvist is so beloved in the locker room that I think Rutherford will want to maintain harmony. Hornqvist would be highly sought after on the free agent market, but he loves it here in Pittsburgh. The fans love him, his teammates love him, his coaches love him. This isn’t like with Fleury where there’s a younger, cheaper replacement nipping at Hornqvist’s heels.

He’s on a $4.25M average annual value deal now. Even with his age heading into his early 30’s, he’s probably going to command $5M per year, similar to what 30-year old Matt Moulson signed for this past offseason. The Penguins are always flirting with the upper threshold of the salary cap and next season is no different. There will probably be a modest increase over the $75M cap, but not much, so let’s assume the Penguins just have the $13.4M of space they currently show. They need 8 players with that money. Some can hopefully be filled internally by the likes of Zach Aston-Reese, Daniel Sprong, and Tristan Jarry, but the Pens may need some maneuvers to get some free space if they want to maintain Hornqvist long term. Trading Carl Hagelin and his $4M hit is the most logical choice for me, as he’s the most superfluous winger they have on the roster.

It’s easy to get attached to players when the team is winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. Everyone wants all the players to stay together forever, but economics dictates that players will need to be moved along from time to time. But for me, Hornqvist is a guy I’d easily sign to a 4 year/$20M deal tomorrow and live with a potential decline down the road. His on and off ice contributions are that important to me.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

6 Comments on A Special Place In Valhalla Awaits Patric Hornqvist

  1. Dave Biesecker // October 26, 2017 at 8:37 AM //

    If I remember correctly, Hornqvist was irreplaceable on the power play last year when he was injured. If that was true, then considering his locker room presence, he definitely should get paid. The only problem is he will probably look really good to another team with more cap space and who will be happy to overpay for a player from a 3 time (maybe) Cup team.

  2. Bob Stover // October 26, 2017 at 11:07 AM //

    I agree 100%. Hagelin and Kessel should both be trade bait this year. Both are productive at times, but both also show long streaks of non-productive play. The problem will be finding anyone willing to take on the salary of either of them and offer something of value in return.

  3. I would definitely try and sign him. Even if his 5v5 skills diminish toward the end of the deal, he will still have very real value on the PP.

  4. As the article says, he will command $5M/yr, which certainly the Pens can swing if they choose. The issue to me is just how many years will it take to make the offer attractive? If he wants 5 years that might be a deal breaker. I’d go 3 for sure no questions asked. He is a very valuable piece of the team and the skills he provides are not as common in the NHL as they once were.

    • It does seem like his type is rare these days, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t want to go longer than 4 years, and 3 as you said would be optimum. I like Kessel, but the Pens are on the hook for a while for big money and they don’t need more of those situations.

  5. Kevin Strafalace // October 26, 2017 at 5:54 PM //

    I’d do 4/$20M. But remember Guentzel, rust, sprong, & murray all have contracts that expire in the next 1-3 yrs. At least 2 of them will get huge raises. That’s y bonino was allowed to leave. GMJR is being very cautious with every signing. This run of great cheap youngsters will come to an end eventually & u don’t wanna lose a budding star over a declining veteran on a bad deal & end up wasting sids last couple good yrs

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