The window for Nation Hockey League teams to exercise their compliance buyout option began on Monday, and officially ushered in silly season in the NHL. Late June and early July is a time when no games are played, but players usually cash in big time on new contracts.
Under the new CBA, teams are allowed to use a buyout that won’t cost them a cent against the salary cap, basically allowing them to erase any of their past mistakes. The Montreal Canadiens wasted no time in using both of their allowed buyouts on Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle, so they will not be erasing any cap off their books for next season. However, some teams may cut loose a useful player who is simply being overpaid on his current contract, and this will help top up the free agent market that opens on July 1st.
The question for the Habs becomes, will any of these unexpected free agents be able to help the Habs next season? There were a few rags to riches stories from compliance buyout victims last season.
Tom Gilbert was bought out of his contract with the Minnesota Wild, and signed with the Florida Panthers at a vastly reduced rate before having an excellent season on the Panthers top pairing with Brian Campbell.
Mikhail Grabovski had his contract torn up by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but filled in nicely as a second line center on the Washington Capitals, scoring 35 points in just 58 games. However, most players bought out a year ago, struggled once again, proving the team that got rid of them was correct to save dollars on the cap.
This season, there has not been much buyout news, with just four players being cut loose thus far. Defenseman Aaron Rome formerly of the Dallas Stars, Ville Leino who was a Buffalo Sabre and Jordin Tootoo of the Detroit Red Wings have been bought out but offer should be of no interest to the Montreal Canadiens this offseason.
The only recently bought out player that should draw interest from the Habs is David Booth. He is a big winger who is coming off a tough season with the Vancouver Canucks, but has shown in the past to have a goal scoring touch.
In his last four seasons in the Eastern Conference with the Florida Panthers, Booth scored 84 goals in 255 games, which is a 27 goal pace over the course of an 82 game schedule. He battled injuries during the 2012-13 season, playing just 12 games in the lockout shortened season, and scored just nine goals and 19 points in 66 games this season, often finding himself in John Tortorella’s doghouse, which is a difficult place to escape.
Booth may be a bit of a reclamation project, but at just 29 years old he is certainly not over the hill just yet. I am not suggesting the Habs offer him the type of money he was making in Vancouver (4.25 million on a six year deal), but Booth could easily be the Mason Raymond of 2014-15.
Raymond was let go by the Canucks a year ago, after back to back ten goal seasons and signed on with the Toronto Maple Leafs for one year and one million dollars. Raymond bounced back, scoring 19 goals and 45 points in a depth role with the Leafs, and will sign a much larger contract this offseason.
Booth won’t be looking for much more than Raymond earned last season, hoping to show on a short term deal that he can still play at the NHL level. If he plays well next season, someone will make him an offer a year from now on a more lucrative contract.
The Habs scooped up Daniel Briere after he was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers a year ago, and though the experiment hardly worked out, Booth is nearly ten years younger than Briere, and would not cost 4 million dollars per season.
A motivated Booth on a one year “show me” contract could be a huge boost to the Habs scoring. If he doesn’t play well, he is earning similar money to Dale Weise anyway, and can be a healthy scratch easily.
I think Booth could be a great fit with the Canadiens, and could be a perfect replacement for Rene Bourque if the inconsistent Hab finds a new home this summer.