The first newcomer that we’ve profiled so far, David Booth is 29-year old winger known for his excellent speed. There’s offensive skill somewhere in that 6’0, 212lb package, but fans don’t get to see it all that often.
Selected by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Booth was a streaky scorer that reached the 20-goal mark twice and the 30-goal mark once. After being traded to Vancouver three seasons ago however, inconsistency and injuries limited Booth’s effectiveness.
Booth spent the 2013-14 season with the Vancouver Canucks, appearing in 66 games and scoring nine goals and 19 points. Those aren’t exactly eye-popping numbers, even if Booth did only play third line minutes (his time-on-ice per game ranked ninth amongst Canucks forwards that played more than 20 games).
Pair last season with a 2012-13 campaign in which Booth missed 70 games due to groin and ankle injuries, and it’s easy to see why the Vancouver Canucks wanted to cut ties with their $4.25M winger. Back on June 17th, the Canucks placed Booth on unconditional waivers, and used their last remaining compliance buyout on him the following day.
It makes sense that the Canucks bought out Booth’s contract, especially considering it cost the team nothing but dollars and cents, and didn’t hurt their cap situation.
However, despite being dumped, our good friend Dmitri Filipovic at Canucks Army provided some insight into why Booth still has some redeeming qualities:
While he’s unquestionably overpaid at this point, it’d reek of negligence on our part were we to conduct a discussion about his value as a hockey player without pointing out the subtle value he provides.
Despite being something of a shooting percentage outlier that we’ve needed to come to terms with, the Canucks have routinely out-possessed and out-shot their opponents whenever he has hit the ice. Last season, he and Zack Kassian, in particular, enjoyed all sorts of success together as a tandem. The Canucks controlled 53.8% of all shot attempts at 5v5 in the ~400 minutes they shared, which is an even more impressive feat when you consider that they did so predominantly with Brad Richardson as their pivot.
I know mocking Booth is in vogue among Canucks fans, but he retains some utility in part because he’s excellent through the neutral zone and he’s fast and physical. He scores even-strength goals a pretty good clip (no, really), and though he doesn’t kill penalties, he can probably be a pretty useful third-liner on a contending team. Out of all Canucks that logged at least 500 5v5 minutes last season, only Mike Santorelli and Alex Burrows were on the ice for fewer goals against than the much-maligned winger.
On July 22nd, the Leafs signed Booth to a one-year, $1.1M contract. Somewhat hilariously, the Leafs still won’t be Booth’s highest-paying employer this season, as the Canucks owe him $1.58M both this season and next.
Booth has the ability to play up and down the lineup if need be, but he’ll likely settle into a third line role, playing alongside guys like Peter Holland, Mike Santorelli, David Clarkson, etc. As long as the Leafs’ top six stays healthy, there’s little chance that Booth will see meaningful time alongside the team’s top players.
What makes Booth an enticing pickup, besides coming cheap, is that he should provide a boost to the Leafs’ bottom six. Booth is an excellent forechecker, and regularly pushes the play in the right direction. He’s far from a shutdown specialist, but Booth could be a key cog in an effective third line that emphasizes pushing the play down the ice, and not collapsing – something Leafs fans have long desired.
This of course all depends on Booth’s ability to stay healthy, which is always a concern. It appears that Booth didn’t sustain any injuries during the Leafs and Legends Charity Gold Classic last week, so we’re off to a good start.
Speed doesn’t get you any fantasy points, so Booth’s value is limited. He will score a goal here and there, but long gone are the days when you could expect significant offensive contributions, and shouldn’t get much opportunity to play with the Leafs’ regular producers.