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NHL Anaheim Ducks

Canucks bolster second line with Booth pickup

Over the past few years – dating back to the 1998 Pavel Bure trade – it seems as though the only team the Vancouver Canucks are allowed to trade with are the Florida Panthers. That’s not actually the case, of course, but if it were, the Canucks would probably be OK, as they’ve gotten into the habit of fleecing their Southeast Division colleagues on a fairly regular basis.

And while time will tell if this latest swap, announced Saturday, turns out the same way, it certainly seems like the Canucks have pulled off another lopsided deal, trading underperforming, recent free-agent signee Marco Sturm and aging, injured forward Mikael Samuelsson to the Panthers for American winger David Booth, centre Steven Reinprecht and a 3rd round pick.

On paper, at first glance, it looks like a laugher. Samuelsson is a solid player, but he’s in the last year of his deal, and Sturm is a $2.25-million gamble that didn’t pay off for Canucks GM Mike Gillis. And in Booth, the Canucks get a 26-year-old forward who plays a fairly gritty game and has the potential to put up 25-30 goals (or maybe even more, if he meshes with Ryan Kesler on the Canucks second line.)

Sure there are risks. Booth isn’t cheap at $4.25-million/season for the next three years – the deal reeks of a salary-dump by the Panthers, who also shed Reinprect’s $1.99 million salary-cap hit – and he has a concussion history, too. Also, through six games this season he has but one assist.

But all that said, it’s awfully tough to see how this isn’t a good deal for the Canucks. Sturm was a sunk cost – had he stayed with the Canucks, he likely would’ve been spending an awful lot of time in the press box as a healthy scratch (he sat once already), and while Samuelsson definitely has value and the ability to score, he’s very obviously on the decline. He went from 30 goals two seasons ago to just 18 last year, and had already sat out a game due to injury. He was also miscast as the point man on the Canucks power play at the start of the year, and his absence now means Sami Salo, who scored the winner in OT Saturday, will likely stick on the top unit, which is undoubtedly an improvement.

Even if Samuelsson and Booth have similar outputs the rest of the year, Booth is eight years younger, and will be around awhile. The Canucks have already sent Reinprecht to Chicago of the AHL, and though it’s doubtful he’ll see time with the team during the regular season (he’d be subject to re-entry waivers) he’s certainly nice playoff insurance, should third- and fourth-line centers Manny Malhotra or Maxim Lapierre go down to injury.

And while little has been made of the third-round pick, it is an intriguing addition to the deal because it was actually the Canucks’ pick originally. Gillis sent it to Florida last spring for Chris Higgins. It’s potentially interesting because the Canucks now have, again, their own picks in the first three rounds of next summer’s entry draft, which sets them up nicely should they care to throw out an offer sheet to a restricted free agent; NHL rules stipulate that a team must have its own picks (to use as compensation) in order to sign an RFA to an offer sheet. Now, it’s apparently an unwritten rule in NHL GM circles that one does not poach another team’s restricted free agents (We all know how now-Toronto GM Brian Burke reacted when he was in Anaheim and Edmonton’s Kevin Lowe signed away Dustin Penner) but Gillis has shown in the past that he’s not really interested in conventional ways of doing things. So it’s entirely conceivable that, if there’s an RFA that interests him in the summer, he’ll try and get him.

(For the sake of interest, here’s a quick list of some of the top players slated to become RFA’s after the current season, assuming they aren’t signed to new deals before July 1: Evander Kane, David Krecji, Tyler Ennis, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, Jamie Benn, Darren Helm, James Neal and PK Subban)

Sure, it’s probably still fairly unlikely Gillis makes a big-time play for a RFA, but it’s interesting to consider anyhow, now that he has the option. But draft pick aside, this deal looks like a winner, even if David Booth doesn’t turn into a 35-goal scorer and instead sticks in the 20-25 goal range.

It’s also interesting to note that, on Twitter Sunday afternoon, rumours were swirling from the likes of Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, among others, that Gillis was still working the phones madly to, one would assume, make another move or moves. Maybe nothing comes of any of it, but it appears he’s still trying to shuffle the deck a little bit.