Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said there would be a “reset” this summer and with two compliance buyouts, will one of them be used on winger David Booth?
Booth arrived in Vancouver in October 2011 amidst great fanfare in a trade that was heralded as one the best in Gillis’s tenure (aside from the Christian Ehroff trade). The Canucks dealt wingers Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm, who were both unrestricted free agent at season’s end, for a 30-goal scorer in David Booth, a former Stanley Cup Champion in Steve Reinprecht, and a third round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
It was the trade that was going to put the Canucks over the top since it addressed two holes that became evident in the team’s loss to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals just four months ago: size and a second line winger to play with centre Ryan Kesler.
Fast forward to today, with a shrinking cap and seemingly a lack of production from Booth, many fans are calling for the buyout of his contract. Booth has two-years remaining on his contract at $4.5 million and $4.75 million in unpaid salaries (cap hit $4.25 million). A buyout would cost two-thirds of his remaining salary ($6,166,667) and it would be paid out over four years.
It is not a ridiculous amount to buyout Booth and the Canucks will get the benefit of shedding his $4.25 million cap hit, but can they do better through the free agent or trade market? Probably not.
The determining factor behind Gillis’s intention to “reset” is his belief the game has reverted back to a more clutching and grabbing-type hockey that characterized the pre-2004 lockout NHL. During his five-year tenure as the Canucks general manager, Gillis had always been adamant that the ‘Detroit model’ of skill and puck possession was the way to build a Stanley Cup-winning team and organization. Skill and speed would triumph over size and pugnacity.
We have seen his belief in skill waver in the past year and a half through the acquisitions of Zack Kassian and Tom Sestito, but not broken until now. It is no ‘dead puck era’ and offensive skill is still the nature of the game, but it might have to be heavily complemented by “brawn.” Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe writes:
While the game is faster than it ever was, brawn has become an increasingly important factor, too. So, while the skill of the Sedins is admirable, it may be, somewhat like Phil Kessel in Toronto, more a luxury than a necessity. Skill without sufficient size, strength, toughness, and the ability to grind opponents into grist will not get the job done, and from here it looks as if Gillis will need a lot more than one offseason or a roster nip and tuck to make his club thicker, stronger, fiercer, more durable.
Booth’s hunting excursions haven’t helped him earn many fans in Vancouver. Neither has his empty net goal and two assists in 12 games this season. However, he will be a part of this “reset” because he (supposedly) brings exactly what the team needs more of—size, speed, skill, willingness to drive the net and go into the dirty areas. There is no player like him on the Canucks team or available on the free agent market. The Canucks have enough ‘pretty’ goal scorers and none like Booth, who score by taking the puck to the net with sheer determination.
Even though Booth only potted that one empty net goal, his play was probably better than the statistics indicated. He was generating plenty of scoring chances with his speed on the outside and was a disturbance every shift in front of the net.
Both of his seasons in Vancouver have been injury-plagued and he hasn’t put up the numbers expected from him, but a nose for the net is difficult to teach. The Canucks have to give Booth another look to see what he can do when healthy. If he still can’t put it together, the Canucks can buyout the final year of his contract at the end of the 2013-14 season. Teams have until then to use their two compliance buyouts.