After yesterday’s news regarding possible Rangers restricted free agent salary demands, the Blueshirts are likely to be up against or very close to the cap after re-signing all their RFAs.
Which is a scary proposition considering I still think they need one more scorer. Sure, JT Miller and Oscar Lindberg have the ability to make an impact this season, but I’d still feel a hell of a lot more confident having someone with a little bit more of a resume.
Unfortunately, the free agent market has become barren and even if it wasn’t the Rangers don’t have the cap space to bring in a proven commodity.
However, there is one player still available in free agency, who has produced at the NHL level and can be had on the cheap after injuries and misuse have derailed his career…David Booth.
The recently bought out Booth, who stands at 6′ 0″, 212lbs, exploded onto the scene with 100 points (53g, 47a) in his first two full NHL seasons (2007-09) with the Florida Panthers, which earned him a six-year, $25.5 million contract that summer.
Sadly for the 29-year old Booth, after a devastating concussion altered his 2009-10 season, he was surprisingly traded to Vancouver the next fall and his career took a major nosedive.
His time with the Canucks was marred by injury and odd behavior. I mean check out this tweet…
There's only one trophy in the world harder to get than this… And I'm getting that next. pic.twitter.com/UOZyyymf
— David Booth (@D_Booth7) October 11, 2012
John Tortorella even once called Booth a “weird dude.” Ummm, ya think?
Strange behavior can be forgiven if you’re producing, not so much when you spend more time on the injured reserve than the score sheet.
Booth did have some success under Alain Vigneault his first season in Vancouver as he was able to shake off a knee injury that shelved him for four weeks to finish the year with 16g, 13a in 56 games. He also had a superb Corsi of 57.5% (% of team shot attempts for vs. against while player is on the ice) which was 7% higher than the team average.
His second season in the great Northwest had an ominous beginning as he started the lockout shorted schedule on injured reserve and it only got worse when just 12 games after returning to the line-up he sustained a horrific ankle injury which required season ending surgery in March. Doctors said it would take an entire year until his ankle was fully healed
Just seven months later, a still recovering Booth was in the Canucks opening night line-up, playing for a defense oriented coach in Tortorella. As you would expect, things did not go well for Booth.
He finished last year with just 9g, 10a in 66 games and found himself averaging just 29 seconds of power play time and in the press box more often than a $4.25 million per year player should. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back as the Canucks made the easy decision to buy Booth out last month.
Despite Booth’s nightmare experience in Vancouver, there were some silver linings which indicate he could be a candidate for a bounce back season. As I mentioned above, the doctors who performed Booth’s surgery on March 22, 2013 explained it would take a year before the ankle was fully healed. Well, exactly one year to the day of his surgery, Booth began a resurgence as he tallied 4g, 2a in the final 10 games of last season after scoring just 5g, 8a in the previous 55. A now healthy Booth should be ready to breakout.
He also proved that even when he’s not producing on the scoreboard, he’s not a complete liability on the ice as his Corsi never dipped lower than 52% in Vancouver and always had a plus Corsi Rel. (player Corsi compared to team average Corsi). In fact, Booth’s puck possession ability was so strong he consistently made his teammates better as seen in this graph courtesy of Ryan Wilson at HockeyBuzz which indicates that the five most common forwards he played with in Vancouver each saw better possession numbers playing with Booth than without….
Booth’s fast skating and puck possession seem like a match made in redemption heaven in Vigneault’s system. With another reclamation project in Mike Ribeiro recently being given a one-year, $1.05 million contract, the Rangers could easily sign Booth to a $1 million deal maybe even less.
One concern I do have is that despite AV having a history with Booth, there has been no rumors regarding Rangers interest, so maybe the Blueshirts head coach doesn’t think he’d be a great fit despite the numbers saying otherwise.
So let’s review: Booth is a big forward, under the age of 30, a proven NHL scorer, has great possession stats, will be motivated and can be had for cheap. Hmmmmm, sounds exactly like another low risk, high reward player who donned a Blueshirt recently. What was that guy’s name again….oh yeah, Beniot Pouliot.