Botchford: A $1.1-million Booth is not bad at all
The Maple Leafs get a much better deal than the Canucks did
If only David Booth made $1.1. million a year as a Canuck.
Sure, he was crushed by injuries, and justifiably ripped for some woeful goal totals here.
But Booth was publicly buried in Vancouver, and eventually bought out last month, because he was overpaid, and oversold.
And the bear baiting didn’t help anyone.
In Toronto, he gets his fresh start, after agreeing Tuesday to a one-year, $1.1-million deal which is the same “no one in the NHL believes in you any more” deal Mason Raymond got with the Leafs last summer.
It lowers the bar enough that not even Booth can fail to meet expectations.
He just needs to do exactly what he did in the final three months of last season when he was healthy, a puck-possession winner, and an effective bottom-six player on what became a surprisingly decent Canucks third line.
If he does that while making $1.1 million, it’s a helluva deal.
In Vancouver, Booth was doing that with a $4.2-million average salary. The Canucks felt they had to buy him out, to clear cap space and his third line slot to give them more manoeuverability to move in some youth.
Here, he was paid to score and score he did not, finishing his Canucks career with 26 goals in 136 games, and not a single one in the playoffs.
Aside from a near-shooting-star-like performance, right before his knee-on-knee collision with Kevin Porter back in 2011, Booth was posterized early and often for being symbolic of the failures that helped sink the Mike Gillis era.
Gillis was proficient, and a ball buster, early when it came to negotiations. It pushed the Canucks into an enviable salary-cap situation every year before the lockout, when the new CBA cut the cap.
But it was how he spent his cap space which started to become an issue.
In the Booth trade, the Canucks flushed the injured Mikael Samuelsson and the washed-up Marco Sturm to the Sunshine State, viewing it as a chance to get someone who could end the long-running gag of who the heck can play with Ryan Kesler?
On the flip side, the Florida Panthers just viewed it as a straight salary dump.
The Canucks had pursued Booth for more than a year. At the February 2011 trade deadline, the Canucks were chasing Booth when the Panthers, at the last minute, said “nah, but we have Chris Higgins if you want him.”
With hindsight, the Canucks should have ended their Booth pursuit then, after getting a winner in Higgins. But they swung back around in the fall, still seduced by Booth’s combo of size and speed, unwittingly hammering a significant nail into the coffin of that 2011 Stanley Cup runner-up.
Booth wasn’t awful his first year in Vancouver. Things looked promising early too, before Porter jetted out his knee and sprained Booth’s MCL. He was on a 10-points-in-12-games run playing mostly with Kesler and Higgins on the short-lived “Amex Line.”
He ended that season with 16 goals in 56 games with the Canucks, a 21-goal pace, which is not bad.
But that was as good as it ever got for Booth here.
The Porter injury will remain the most memorable, but it was his ankle injury that proved the most damaging.
Not only did it end Booth’s 2013 season in March, it ensured the Canucks couldn’t buy him out last summer.
When he showed up in the fall, he still wasn’t right. He looked nothing like the power forward the Canucks thought they were getting two years earlier. He was slow. He was losing battles on the wall, and he was not a favourite of John Tortorella, who labelled him “a weird dude” in the first week of the season.
Under Tortorella, Booth was marginalized, scratched and even openly mocked by the coach who, after a game in Detroit in February, said: “I thought our best forward was David Booth, which is good for him, but not good for us.”
Interestingly, the game was about one year after the ankle surgery. When Booth injured his ankle and had surgery, they told him it would take one year to fully recover.
Booth closed out the season with four goals in 26 games. Not exactly lighting the league ablaze.
But his underlying stats were impressive, including 55 shots he managed in those 26 games playing a defensive role with Brad Richardson as his centre.
He does that on the bottom six in Toronto, he’ll be just fine.
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