Huge game for the Canucks, quite obviously, when they take on the Kings in Game 2 tonight, which brings us back to one of the most intriguing trades of this NHL season.
It happened way back at the end of October, and most analysts believed that not only had Vancouver acquired a legitimate top six forward in David Booth, they'd fleeced Florida and GM Dale Tallon by sending only veteran forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm south.
Six months later, the Canucks, who also assumed the contract of Steven Reinprecht ($2.05 million) in the deal and acquired a third round pick, are still waiting for Booth to assert himself after an up-and-down 16-goal season. In Game 1, with his old nemesis Mike Richards having a terrific game on the L.A. side, Booth was relatively a non-factor with four shots in 14:37, albeit on a night when many of the Vancouver offensive players spent a lot of time on the bench because the club took so many penalties.
With Daniel Sedin still out, Booth becomes that much more important to the Canucks. So far, he certainly hasn't delivered what Vancouver thought it was getting, and Samuelsson, in eight fewer games, scored only three less goals for the Panthers.
It's beyond this season, meanwhile, where the ramifications of the deal become more interesting, particularly if Booth continues to be rather average.
The contracts of Samuelsson and Sturm expire after this season. Booth, however, has three more years left on a contract that pays him $4.25 million per season, precisely the reason Florida wanted to get rid of him even though they'd spent madly over the summer adding contracts just to get to the salary floor. Tallon has found Vancouver to be a useful dumping ground for contracts he prefers to be rid of, such as the Keith Ballard deal, which was sent to the Canucks in 2010 for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and a first round pick.
That contract also still has three years to run at $4.2 million per season. Ballard, meanwhile, was on the periphery of the Vancouver defence corps a year ago in the run to the Cup final, and this year he has been sidelined since Feb. 7 with a concussion. Grabner was a Calder Trophy candidate and the Panthers used the first rounder to select Quinton Howden, who has 70 goals in the past two seasons with the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors.
Don't know if the Canucks are happy with the Booth and Ballard deals. But the Panthers sure are.
Ballard can't yet play, but tonight would be a most convenient time for Booth to deliver the goods for Vancouver. Ditto for Sammy Pahlsson and Zack Kassian, two players picked up by GM Mike Gillis at the trade deadline.
If none of these players step up and become significant contributors this spring for Vancouver, the judgment on Gillis may be rather harsh. He inherited all of the club's key core players when he took over from Dave Nonis, and so far, unless you count Chris Higgins as a core athlete, he has failed to augment the roster with significant impact players.
Booth was supposed to be that guy. He needs to start being that guy.