He once woke a teammate from a nap on the road when he practised his bird calls, the gobbles, purrs and clucks of a wild turkey. He liked to wear a green camouflage Vancouver Canucks ballcap. He courted controversy killing a black bear using the controversial method of a bait trap for a television show. His former coach called him a “weird dude” – but meant it in a good way. He grew up in a Christian home, Lutheran, in the suburbs of Detroit but forged his own relationship with God at 18, in Colorado, and his evangelical faith has been the underpinning of his life ever since.
As of Tuesday morning, it is goodbye David Booth, the most unusual of Canucks on a roster of mostly staid personalities. The Canucks have put the soon-to-be 30-year-old winger on waivers as part of the team’s move to use its second and final compliance buyout on Booth, who was married on the weekend in Montana and was told about the buyout Monday evening.
He had one year remaining on his contract. The buyout will cost a little more than $3-million, two-thirds of the $4.75-million he was set to be paid.
The cash outlay removes $4.25-million from the Canucks‘ 2014-15 salary cap and Booth joins an ever-increasing group of people owner Francesco Aquilini is paying to not work for the Canucks, a list that includes fired general general Mike Gillis, fired coach John Tortorella, last year’s buyout man Keith Ballard, and traded goalie Roberto Luongo.
Booth’s departure is another inscription in the tombstone of a once-great team, whose fall from the elite ranks of the NHL has been a stunning collapse. Jim Benning, the new GM who along with team president Trevor Linden decided on the buyout, has promised a turnaround in a hurry, and the Booth move is an indication the Canucks weren’t going to simply hope Booth delivers a reasonable performance next year after several seasons of failings.
Booth arrived in Vancouver by a trade with Florida in which the Canucks didn’t give up much, a move made in October, 2011, four months after losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. The winger was something of a reclamation project, coming off a series of concussions but with a 31-goal season to his name. It was a gamble by then GM Gillis – and it failed, though the reasons can be fairly pinned on injury, a series of them, starting with a significant knee injury not long after Booth arrived in Vancouver and then a severe ankle injury the subsequent season.
He was brought to Vancouver to score – and didn’t. The first season, 2011-12, was reasonable, 16 goals in 56 games. The 2013 lockout year began and ended with injury and in his dozen games played the only goal scored was an empty netter. This past season, he had nine goals in 66 games, going for a stretch of 32 contests without a goal and potting three in his last 10, a glimmer of production that wasn’t enough for the Canucks to consider keeping him.
The buyout increases the Canucks salary cap space to about $15-million, up from $11.7-million, reducing their current 2014-15 cap outlay to $55.1-million, according to figures from capgeek.com. The Canucks have several young restricted free agents to resign, including Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev, and may also re-sign Mike Santorelli.
The cap breathing room is likely more useful for whatever manoeuvres are used around Ryan Kesler, who is set to be traded, with the idea that a Kesler trade brings back more than one player. The Canucks also have the No. 6 draft pick next week, and the team has talked about possibly trading up – which could put them in the position to draft the likes of promising local teenager Sam Reinhart, a strong two-way centre noted for his hockey sense who grew up in West Vancouver, the son of former high-scoring Canucks defenceman Paul Reinhart.
The Booth buyout has been a long time coming. Last November, Booth was demoted to the minors and Gillis called him out on radio for soft, unmotivated play. As was often the case, Booth leaned on his relationship with God, tweeting on his 29th birthday: “You keep me going when times are tough.” In an interview at the time, Booth cited that a full effort as a “biblical principal” and resolved: “I still have plenty of good hockey in me.”