On Saturday October 22nd 2011, Mike Gillis reminded Vancouver fans why he was voted GM of the Year just a few months ago.
Florida-bound are Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm.
Samuelsson was a valuable part of the Canucks roster the last few years, but he had essentially outlived his purpose. When Gillis signed Samuelsson as a free agent two years ago, the right winger was to complement the Sedins and provide some veteran playoff leadership.
Well, Alex Burrows solidified his spot as the twins' favorite winger, and Samuelsson slipped down to the second line, where he had some erratic performances.
As for playoff leadership, the entire Canucks roster got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and while they didn’t win, I don’t think they need Samuelsson (who was injured during the playoff run anyways) to provide that voice of experience anymore.
This season, Samuelsson wasn’t doing badly, but he was coming off significant surgery in the offseason, and was therefore being outplayed by Chris Higgins and Cody Hodgson for the second line winger roles.
Sturm, on the other hand, had played himself off the team; or at least the starting roster. Essentially signed as a gamble on July 1st, Sturm was the most disappointing skater so far in the Canucks' young season.
Who won the trade?
Gillis managed to parlay these two aging veterans, whose contract expire after this year, for a solid 26-year-old power forward in David Booth. And not only did he get Booth, Gillis also convinced the Panthers to throw in the third-round pick the Canucks had traded them in the deadline deal for Chris Higgins last spring. That’s right, Gillis essentially got Higgins for free.
Okay, the Canucks also did take on the contract of Steven Reinprecht, who they promptly buried in the minors, but I don’t care about that. Players in the AHL don’t count against the salary cap and the Canucks make enough money that paying Reinprecht $2 million to play in the minors is chump change.
So what does Booth bring to the team?
Well, for starters, hopefully some instant chemistry with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins. Booth and Kesler are friends, and both grew up in Michigan playing minor hockey together. They have also been teammates on a few international tournaments for Team USA.
Higgins played with Booth in Florida last season, until his trade to Vancouver at the deadline. Higgins has been one of the better forwards for the Canucks so far this season and had some pretty good chemistry with Kesler himself.
Booth is 6’0” and 215 pounds. While his height isn’t exactly that of an ideal power forward, he is pretty solidly built. For easy comparison by Canucks fans, he is roughly the same height and weight as Raffi Torres, the human wrecking ball the Canucks let get away last summer.
So far this season, Booth has a single assist in six games, though he has also accumulated 12 hits and 14 shots.
In the 2010-2011 season, he had 129 hits (third on the Panthers) and 280 shots (third on the Panthers), as well as racking up 23 goals and 19 assists for 40 points (third on the Panthers). He was also a minus-31 on the season.
While those numbers aren’t great, you have to keep in mind that he was playing on an utterly horrible team. The Panthers finished a sad-sack 28th overall last year and were the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Moving to the Canucks, who won the President’s Trophy and dominated most statistical categories last season, and playing with Ryan Kesler, who is hands down better than any center Florida has ever had, can only improve Booth’s numbers.
And as a comparison, those 129 hits would have been the most out of any forward who played in the top six on the Canucks last year, while his 280 shots would have led the team as well.
Booth clearly has upside, and once he settles into Vancouver, he should be able to put up some serious numbers.
Now, no discussion of Booth would be complete without mentioning his injury history. He and Marc Savard were the poster boys for blindside hits when it was the hot topic back in the 2009-2010, after Mike Richards destroyed Booth with a head hit that left him with a serious concussion.
However, Booth did return to play that season, and went on to play all 82 games last season. So, while any future head hits would be a potential worry, he has a clean bill of health at the moment.
Gillis absolutely robbed Florida. I’m sure there are plenty of other GMs around the league wondering why they didn’t offload some aging vets to pick up Booth themselves.
And one last important note: Gillis made the trade and upgraded a weak spot (second-line wing) on the Canucks without giving up the blue-chip asset that everyone, including myself, thought he would have to deal in order to bring in that elusive top-six winger. The Canucks still have Cory Schneider as an asset, whether it is to continue backing up Roberto Luongo, or for a future upgrade
All in all, combining the news of this trade with the Canucks' victory over Minnesota, October 22nd has been the best day of the season to date.