Dale Tallon has done some very odd things since becoming the general manager of the Florida Panthers, and this deal snuggles in nicely. After spending the summer overpaying free agents both with cash and term (and acquiring Brian Campbell via trade), Tallon has decided to ship one of his more marketable players to Vancouver along with a 3rd round pick in exchange for a couple of aging veterans coming off surgery with expiring contracts (Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm) and cash (Vancouver now gets to pay Steven Reinprecht). Without the huge summer splurge, the move looks like it fits a plan. But with the huge splurge? Who knows. So is Mike Gillis laughing all the way to the bank?
The problem for a big Canucks celebration is what they gave up. When Dale Tallon traded Michael Frolik to Chicago for Jack Skille, the Blackhawks could be pretty confident that they weren't being sold a bill of goods because it was clear that Tallon actually wanted Jack Skille (and because Frolik's struggles were mostly driven by percentages). In this case, not so much. Marco Sturm was a free agent this summer, so you can believe me when I say that if Dale Tallon had wanted him, he'd have gotten him, and Mikael Samuelsson is an old guy coming off surgery who simply doesn't fit into Florida's long term plan.
In return for that whole-lot-of-nothing, Tallon gave up a third-round pick, was able to rid himself of a $1.99M liability in Steven Reinprecht, and gave up David Booth. In other words, once you factor in the other salaries and the value of the pick, David Booth was sold for about $1M. If you accept that Sturm and Samuelsson weren't really targeted by Florida, then you should accept that the $1M valuation on his contract was likely one of the highest around the NHL, and that it's quite likely that many general managers thought that the contract presented negative value. In other words, Gillis is betting against pretty much everyone else in the league here, which doesn't necessarily make this a mistake, but it should give the club pause.
So what about Booth's performance? This season, he's off to a slow start statistically and his ice time has decreased, but a six-game sample isn't going to tell you much. The real problem is his performance in prior seasons. His one big year was fuelled by percentages: he had 31 goals in 2008-09, but shot 12.6%; if he'd shot at his 9.2% career rate, he would have scored just 23. Then in 2009-10 he suffered a devastating concussion, which limited him to just 28 games. He came back last season, and even though he generally avoided tough competition and got a near even amount of starts in the offensive and defensive zones, Booth scored just 23 goals and ended the season -31.
That doesn't sound promising.
But 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.
So is Mike Gillis just smarter than everyone else? He just might be. There's no doubt that this trade makes the Canucks better today, and there's a reasonably good chance that it works long term too. Even the other two additions he's made could be useful. He himself mentioned wanting to get that third round pick back because it was originally theirs, and getting it back gives him the option of an offer sheet next summer. And while Steven Reinprecht isn't likely to help the team at all this season, he does provide some injury insurance for the Canucks in the playoffs. I hate to say it, but this looks like another pretty good deal for Vancouver.