October 24, 2011
In case you live in a hyperbaric chamber from Fridays to Mondays, you probably know that the Canucks made a big move over the weekend, sending Mikael Samuelsson(notes) and Marco Sturm(notes) to the Florida Panthers in exchange for David Booth(notes) (and Steven Reinprecht(notes), but whatever).
I've already gone on record as saying that I liked the move. Heck, most people did, especially fans of the Vancouver Canucks. It was pretty much chalked up as a supermega win for Mike Gillis and a swinging-a-cat-by-the-tail, adult-diaper-wearing, biggest-idiot-ever moment for Dale Tallon.
Of course, it's not that cut and dry. Tallon is no idiot, and his eagerness to rid himself of Booth's contract gives one the indication that Booth has a contract of which one wants to be rid.
Frankly, to many teams, Booth does. The American-born winger is not without his baggage, which is likely a reason that Gillis's package was uncontested by anything better from another GM. When all is said and done, the Canucks could find themselves stuck with a really ugly contract, and if that happens, Dale Tallon would be the big winner here.
In today's NHL, cap space matters most of all, and Booth, who is owed over four million over the next four years, takes up quite a bit of it for an alarmingly long duration, especially for a guy that had fallen to third line duties in Florida, was well on his way to a team-worst plus/minus for the second consecutive year, and boasts a 2011-12 statline that, thus far, rivals the outgoing Marco Sturm's for vomit induction.
(And, if you read Iain MacIntyre's column in the Vancouver Sun from the weekend, the Canucks should also be concerned about Booth's lack of postseason experience. "Samuelsson's 92 career playoff games are 92 more than Booth has played," he wrote. But this is silly. In case you forgot, the Canucks just went to the Stanley Cup Final. Booth may not have any playoff experience, but the rest of the Canucks' lineup has more than enough to cover.)
As it stands, Booth isn't worth his contract, but the Canucks are betting that being surrounded by a better cast and playing in front of a better goalie will change that. According to Scott Reynolds of Copper & Blue, it's a safe bet:
[...] David Booth was killed by the percentages. His Corsi and Relative Corsi were both actually positive, and he set a new career high for shots on goal with 280 on the season. The reason for his horrendous +/- was a PDO of just 95.8, the 13th-worst number in the entire league. He also stayed healthy for the entire year. In other words, there's hope. There's probably not a lot of hope for him to hit that career high over and over, but playing alongside Ryan Kesler, there's certainly hope that he'll help to push the play in the right direction and pot twenty goals. Plus, at just twenty-six years old, Booth is in the prime of his career.
And Cam Charron echoes and explains the PDO problem over at Canucks Army:
PDO is an excellent measurement of luck. Multiply the sum of a player's on-ice shooting percentage by his on-ice save percentage by 1000 and you come up with a number that describes whether a player is the beneficiary or getting burned by bad bounces. Over 1000 is unsustainably high, under 1000 is unsustainably low. Last season, Booth had the 13th worst PDO in the NHL, partly due to playing in front of inept-goaltending (Florida goalies only saved .889% of shots when Booth was on the ice). That shouldn't be an issue anymore (unless The Province's editorial board wins the Canucks "GM For A Day" contest) so Booth will look a lot better than a -37 in his last 88 hockey games, on the Canucks.
In short, the raw stats are concerning, but the underlying stats are promising: Booth struggled last season with some bad luck; it's bound to turn around, especially with a team that trends toward success.
(Booth isn't quite sold on his luck, however. According to the Miami Herald, he reportedly "broke down into tears when informed that he was traded." It's understandable. As much as he's going to a winner, he's also going to a winner where the weather can be intolerable and, if you play poorly, the fans can be too. It's a lot harder to enjoy your money in this market. But, just as we're confident that Booth will come around statistically, he's bound to do so emotionally as well.)
Gillis is optimistic that Booth will bounce back, but don't think Tallon isn't. I'd be willing to wager that the Panthers' GM, having watched Booth for two seasons, saw a piece whose value wasn't salvageable in Florida, and whose contract was nearing unmoveability. That in mind, he saved himself an albatross and flipped Booth for two pieces that could be immensely tradeable later on.
Just as Booth is a better fit in Vancouver, Samuelsson and Sturm are better fits in Florida, at least in terms of their asset value. Unlike Booth's ever-diminishing value, Samuelsson and Sturm's veteran status and expiring contracts will bloat their worth as the trade deadline approaches.
Tallon isn't nutty enough to think Florida's making a Cup run this year. He's likely already fully aware the Panthers will be sellers, so he's wisely stocking up on things to sell. If the wingers he's acquired can refind their games in the slightest in Florida --and they should, since Samuelsson is still working his way back from injury and Sturm's PDO was also unsustainably low -- they'll be very desirable to contending teams looking to trade prospects and picks for rentals.
It's a gamble, but it's no more calculated a gamble than Gillis's decision to take on the Booth contract.
Both GMs bought low, and both GMs could benefit from their bargain hunting. This was a good deal for both sides.