Called up LW Tim Kennedy and C Bracken Kearns from AHL San Antonio (Oct. 20, 2011)
Traded LW David Booth and C Steven Reinprecht and a 2013 third round draft choice to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for LW Marco Sturm and RW Mikael Samuelsson (Oct. 22, 2011)
Demoted C Bracken Kearns to San Antonio of the AHL (Oct. 24, 2011)
Perhaps the simplest part of any trade analysis is the discussion of the merits of any given player involved. In surrendering both Booth and Reinprecht, the Panthers are only stripping away one member of the active team, as the 35-year-old Reinprecht has been plying his trade outside of the confines of the NHL since last New Year's, first playing in Germany and more recently, in the AHL. While not a bad player to have in reserve, the 10-year NHL veteran has a cap hit that practically prohibits his being recalled this season by Vancouverthe Canucks are rubbing up against the cap, while Reinprecht carries a figure of $2.05 million. Unfortunately for him, he was far more likely to see NHL ice had he remained with the Panthers, who are now more than $9 million under the cap limit.
Booth, until the deal a lifelong Panther, had seen around 15 minutes of ice time per game so far this season, under 12:00 at even strength, roughly what should be expected from a second- or third-line forward. He had mostly been lining up alongside Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall for Florida, and they had gotten off to a horrendous start to the season. In the Panthers' first six games, the trio had combined for one goal and two assists, and were an ugly collective minus-15. Only Scottie Upshall's relatively positive 6.4 Relative Corsi kept them in the black using the more advanced numbers. Of the trio, Upshall and Booth were also being particularly shielded, seeing some of the most favorable offensive start percentages on the team, both with figures north of 55%.
Playing poorly is nothing new for Booth, who last year had the lowest combined GVT mark among all NHL forwards, finishing the season at -2.8 GVT. This included below replacement level numbers offensively (-2.0), defensively (-0.3) and on the shootout (-0.5). A mitigating circumstance was present in that the Detroit native was returning from a serious concussion that wiped out most of his 2009-10 season. Now 27, the former second round pick had been a highly productive NHL player before his injury, peaking with 11.2 GVT in his second full season in 2008-09, when he scored 30 goals.
While known as a fan favorite among the Florida faithful, Booth had seemingly overstayed his welcome. As Dale Tallon was quoted in the Miami Herald, "We're in the performance business and I was not happy with our team's performance, especially the last two games
I wasn't going to sit still and let this fester and I want to send a message and I want to make changes and I want to get better."
What this trade does for Florida, beyond removing a player who has failed to produce in nearly two full seasons, is provide them with substantially increased depth along the wings, while simultaneously raising their cap hit and lowering their salary expenditures. Samuelsson and Sturm will also lower the need for the Panthers to rely on AHL lifers like 30-year-old Bracken Kearns, who made his NHL debut on the 20th against Buffalo. It makes for a great story, but it's not the best way to build a winning hockey club.* If Kearns can be seen as a prototypical replacement level player, VUKOTA pegged Booth for a season of 4.8 GVT. Reinprecht, although unlikely to see an NHL dressing room, was pegged for 3.1 GVT this season. Coming back to Florida, Mikael Samuelsson, although day-to-day with a groin pull, is projected to be worth 7.3 GVT in this, his age-35 season, and the 33-year-old Marco Sturm should provide 3.7 GVT.
*To punch home this point, Kearns was demoted back to AHL San Antonio before the team's first post-trade game.
Sameulsson should slot nicely into Florida's second line, a fluid construct at the present, with the struggles of Kopecky and Upshall stacked on top of injuries to Sean Bergenheim and Mike Santorelli. Sturm is more of a bottom-six forward these days, as injuries and natural skill erosion have reduced the potency of the seven-time 20 goal scorer. Both forwards can play some on the power play while Sturm has a reputation as a solid penalty killer as well.
GVT and recent performances aside, Booth is seen by many to have the best chance at long-term NHL success, with his wheels and scorer's demeanor still in his possession. In many cases, the adage states that the team that walks away with the best player wins the trade. In this case, it's not so clear. Booth comes with a fair amount of risk and his contract has three more years to run before expiring. Samuelsson and Sturm will both be UFAs at the end of this season, giving the Panthers more flexibility in terms of future outlay. By risking a turnaround in form from Booth, the Panthers are putting themselves in a better position to compete for a playoff spot this season. After having missed out on the second season every year since 1999-00, there is an urgency in the way this team must be run.
Traded LW Marco Sturm and RW Mikael Samuelsson to the Florida Panthers in exchange for LW David Booth and C Steven Reinprecht and a 2013 third round draft choice (Oct. 22, 2011)
Having already delved into the whys and wherefores of the Panthers' end of the deal, why would the Canucks trade two seemingly useful players, and the added salary flexibility that their impending offseason departures will bring, for a player tied up long term with diminishing results and a dead contract?
Answering Matthew Coller's recent question about their urgency in deal-making, the first place to look is the salary cap. Samuelsson was carrying a cap hit of $2.5 million (minus $216,000 already paid) and Sturm has a hit of $2.25 million (minus $195,000 already paid). Booth's cap number is nearly equal to the combined hits of the two 30-something Europeans at $4.25 million. With a handful of players on the long-term injured reserve, the Canucks have less than $90,000 of available cap space.
Samuelsson and Strum represented two-thirds of the Canucks' early season third line, surrounding rookie Cody Hodgson. With the return of Ryan Kesler to health and ice, Hodgson has (at least temporarily) moved to his wing. Booth, with his top-six pedigree, can be expected to replace Christopher Higgins on the revamped second line. It is important to point out that Kesler and Booth have history together. Both from the Detroit area, they were teammates on the 2001-02 U.S. Junior National Team. That American team was the tournament's highest scoring team in the first round, but bowed out to Team Canada in the Quarterfinals. Higgins, in turn, will strengthen a third line now looking for all intents and purposes to also include Jannik Hansen and Manny Malhotra. As much as Malhotra is a defensive specialist, that figures to be a strong third line, one with less injury risk than that headed by the dearly departed.
Another element to consider for the Canucks, off to a relatively slow start (only nine points in their first eight games), is the need to shake the roster up a bit. Like the Cup-winning Bruins, the Canucks made very few additions over the past offseason, adding only depth wingers Sturm and Andrew Ebbett to replace Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass, and Jeff Tambellini, all lost to free agency, and Mason Raymond, out until at least late November with a fractured vertebra. The loss of Christian Ehrhoff was expected to be overcome with more ice time and a more prominent role for Keith Ballard. Instead, the team has started off hot-and-cold, as they were shut out in two of the four games prior to the trade, while scoring four and then five in the other two recent contests. While Booth was off to a horrid start to this year following what could charitably be called a mulligan in his return from injury last year, the skills are still there to make him a usable foil for old friend Kesler.
As far as skill sets go, and despite VUKOTA's warnings, the Canucks should feel that they picked up the best player in this trade. In terms of talent expended, the cost was bearable, as neither Samuelsson nor Sturm were part of the team's future, as both have rapidly dwindling NHL shelf lives. For better or worse, Booth will be there going forward. In any case, another year like the past one will make his contract untradeable.
Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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