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The Horcoff Contract Comes to an End

A look back at the 6-year, $33 million extension signed in July of 2008.

Perry Nelson/Getty Images

As today is the final day of the contract extension that the Oilers signed Shawn Horcoff to in July of 2008, I thought it'd be a good time to look back at how the former captain performed. Without a doubt, the contract was a major over payment, but it kept one of the club's top players through the prime of his career.

Here's a quick breakdown of the contract, including the actual salary as well as the cap hit (Source: General Fanager):

Shawn Horcoff - 6 year, $33 million
Season 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Salary $7.0 M $6.5 M $6.5 M $6.0 M $4.0 M $3.0 M
Cap Hit $5.5 M $5.5 M $5.5 M $5.5 M $5.5 M $5.5 M

At the time, here's what former general manager Kevin Lowe said of the deal:

Shawn has proven himself as one of the premier players in the National Hockey League and has been and will continue to be an integral part of our organization moving forward.  By being proactive with this deal, we avoid being in a situation where Shawn could become an unrestricted free agent after next season and the unknown free agency can bring to the organization. Having him under contract long-term is something that has been on our radar for a long time and we are extremely pleased to finalize this deal. (Edmonton Oilers)

Horcoff was regularly playing against the oppositions best players and held his own production-wise. In the three seasons leading up to the extension, Horcoff put up some excellent numbers as a centerman, making it hard to pass up the opportunity to sign him long term (Source:

Season GP G A P +/-
2005/06 79 22 51 73 0
2006/07 80 16 35 51 -22
2007/08 53 21 29 50 1

In 2005-2006, 40 of his 73 points were at even-strength, ranking him 27th in the league among forwards with more than 250 minutes of ice time. That tied him with top players like Pavel Dastsyuk and Marian Hossa, so it's hard to ignore. The team was also built for success in the regular season as the team featured experienced defencemen and strength up the middle. The following season didn't go so well as the team was gutted and more ice-time given to younger players on defence. Horcoff managed to get 23 even-strength points but it was a season to forget. Following the trade of Ryan Smyth, the club went into a death march and finished out of the playoffs. The 2007/08 season was a tough one for Horcoff as he battled injuries, but he still managed 50 points, 30 even-strength points, in 53 games.

In those three seasons, Horcoff got 93 even-strength points, ranking him 57th among forwards with over 250 minutes of ice time. He routinely started in his own zone, against the opposition's best players. It can be hard to justify a major contract extension like this one, but it's important to consider the role Horcoff played on the team and the lack of depth in the organization to replace a player like him.

Once the extension kicked in for the 2009/10 season, Horcoff became an easy target for armchair GM's who felt his contract hampered the acquisition of other players. Over the next four seasons, Horcoff continued playing tough minutes and at the same time, became a mentor of sorts to the younger players. Andrew Cogliano was one of the beneficiaries of Horcoff's mentorship and had praise for him this past spring:

"When you come in the league, I don’t think you really understand the game as much as I do now. I was an offensive guy in college (Michigan) when I came out, but I was never where I needed to be as a player in terms of having success the way I have my last couple of years (in Anaheim).

Actually, (Shawn) Horcoff taught me that when I was in Edmonton. He kept telling me, ‘You have to learn the game. Learn how to play PK. Learn to play the powerplay the odd time, and learn how to check. Because that’s the one way you’re going to stay in the league and have a long career." (Source: Sportsnet)

In 2010, the Oilers named Horcoff their 13th captain in franchise history, which was unanimously supported by his teammates. Between 2009 and 2013, Horcoff went on to score 61 even-strength points in 235 games, while taking on tougher opposition and often starting in his own zone. Below is a snapshot of his overall performance at even-strength with the Oilers (Source: War on Ice).

Shawn Horcoff (Even-strength - 5v5) - Oilers
Season GP TOI/GM Points Points/60 CF% CF% Rel ZSO% Rel
2009/10 47 13.83 14 1.29 48.42 3.37 3.68
2010/11 31 11.3 8 1.37 42.38 -3.42 -7.84
2011/12 81 13.37 16 0.89 47.08 -0.17 -10.54
2012/13 76 13.26 23 1.37 45.03 0.25 -2.93

Horcoff then went on to spend the final two years of his extension in Dallas where he played quite well as a depth player. He transitioned to left-wing, as the team had enough pivots, and was an option if any of the regular centers got hurt. Taking on lesser competition, Horcoff adjusted to his new team in the 2013/14 regular season before playing very well in the playoffs, finishing as the team leader in points, all of which were at even-strength. Horcoff carried his playoff performance into the final year of his extension in 2014/15, finishing the season with 29 points with 22 coming at even-strength.

Shawn Horcoff (Even-strength - 5v5) - Stars
Season GP TOI/GM Points Points/60 CF% CF% Rel ZSO% Rel
2013/14 77 10.16 13 1.00 48.65 -2.38 1.46
2014/15 76 10.06 22 1.73 52.68 0.73 0.06

Over the course of six seasons, Shawn Horcoff played  388 games, scoring 98 even-strength points. Hardly the numbers that justify a $33 million contract extension. But it's important to consider the role he played on a terribly managed Oilers team that was filled with inexperienced NHL players. His ability to play the tough minutes can't be overlooked when making an assessment along with the three years preceding the signing. Horcoff did provide excellent value as a Dallas Star performing well when the game was close, and will likely fill a similar role this off-season for a team that is looking for his experience and leadership.