Not many people would welcome a trade from the sun and warmth of South Beach to the Pacific Northwest. David Booth is thrilled to be moving three time zones west.
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On Saturday, the Florida Panthers dealt Booth, center Steve Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick in 2013 to the Vancouver Canucks for forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm.
For Booth, it is a trade from an NHL market where ice is sometimes best known as something put in a drink to a hockey-crazed community where a rabid fan base devours the sport 24/7.
“This is my first time in this situation," Booth said. "My whole career has been in Florida. It’s a polar opposite, so this is a new challenge for me. I’m excited for it and ready to go.”
Booth had one assist in six games this season before the trade. He had 23 goals and 40 points last season for the Panthers.
“I think he gives us an opportunity to have a top-six forward and a left wing to play with Ryan Kesler,” Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis said.
“We were looking to get a little bit younger and a little bit quicker. This should give us an opportunity for a little more balance.”
It also means a strong one-two offensive punch for the Canucks.
The Sedin twins and Alex Burrows are on the top line. Booth, Kesler and Chris Higgins will comprise the second line, now being referred to as The American Express with Higgins shifting from left to right wing.
“We spoke to Ryan before the trade, and he spoke very highly of the person and he spoke very highly of the hockey player,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We want to make sure that anybody coming into our environment is a good person and a good player. That’s what we feel we have.”
Higgins told The Vancouver Province that Booth reminds him of Kesler.
“He’s a powerful, powerful skater and has a real strong body," Higgins said. "He wins a lot of battles and has phenomenal speed with a great wrist shot. I think he’ll find his role on this team pretty quickly.”
Kesler and Booth have also been teammates in minor league hockey and at the World Juniors.
“I’m really looking forward to it because I know he’s a champion and a great leader,” said Booth, who will wear No. 7 in Vancouver because his 16-year-old, hockey-playing sister wears that number.
The move is a potential high risk/high reward one for a team that was 60 minutes away from the Stanley Cup last season.
Booth is on the books for a relatively modest $4.25 million through 2014-15. However, missed considerable time two seasons ago because of concussion issues.
Coming off a career-best 31 goals in 2008-09, Booth missed three months of the 2009-10 season after being leveled by Mike Richards in October. Booth returned on Jan. 31, but shoulder to the head from Jaroslav Spacek ended his season in March. Booth played all 82 games last season.
"He hasn’t been hurt at all since he returned," Gillis said. "I met him last summer, actually, when I was in Northern California, just by coincidence. I had a chat with him, and he said he’d felt great the whole season."
Reinprecht, 35, has been assigned to Chicago of the American Hockey League. Last season, he split time between the Panthers and Mannheim in Germany.
Samuelsson, eight years older than the 26-year-old Booth, had one goal and two assists this year for the Canucks; Sturm, 33, signed as a free agent in the offseason and hoped to revitalize his career in Vancouver, but he was scoreless in six games. Combined, Samuelsson and Sturm make $4.75 million; their contracts expire after this season.
"Samuelsson won a Cup in Detroit and is coming off back-to-back 50-point seasons. He’s a real useful player. He can play the point on the power play and has size and a big shot that we sorely need,” Florida GM Dale Tallon said. “Sturm gives us a player that can kill penalties. He’s scored 20 or more goals seven times in his career, and it just gives us more options and more depth in the organization."
Northwest Division notes
• In the first three games of its current six-game homestand, Calgary has scored only four goals, yet is 1-1-1.
• Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano has proven he’s capable of taking on a bigger role with the team after the offseason trade of top defenseman Robyn Regehr. He played nearly 24 minutes against Nashville on Saturday and had five shots on goal and blocked two shots.
• Colorado is 6-0 on the road this season and has outscored opponents 25-14. Though the Avalanche are off to the best road start in franchise history, they are 0-2 at the Pepsi Center.
• Edmonton goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is having a flashback-type season. In his first four starts, the 38-year-old is 2-0-2 with a 0.72 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage. “I didn’t expect anything from myself other than a good effort from myself and to fight for playing time,” he said.
• Minnesota has gone into overtime in five of its past six games, winning twice and losing once in shootouts and twice in four-on-four time.
• Vancouver left wing Mason Raymond, who suffered broken vertebrae in his back during the Stanley Cup Final, has resumed skating, but there is no timeline for his return.