If there is to be a new coach next season and Gillis is trying to decide between buying out Booth or Ballard, who would you want Gillis to keep? Both players are signed for two more years with almost an identical cap hit (Booth's is $250K more). Booth will turn 29, while Ballard will turn 31. Prior to playing under AV, Booth was a top 6 winger who averaged about 22-23 goals and about 40 points, while Ballard was a top 4 defenseman who averaged about 6+ goals and about 30 points. Booth is injury prone and probably shouldn't be expected to play much more than 70+ games while Ballard has been relatively healthy for a defenseman. In terms of how the two fit in the Canucks' salary structure (trades and acquisitions notwithstanding), Booth will be the Canucks' 5th highest paid forward, while Ballard will be the Canucks 5th highest paid defenseman.
Case for keeping Booth:
In Booth's first season here, he put up 16 goals and 29 points (albeit most of them prior to his knee injury). This means that Booth has managed to average 20+ goals and about 40 points over 82 games for quite a few coaches now. Booth is a fast skater who consistently takes the puck to the net. He has some gamebreaking skills (he once scored 31 goals and he had a stretch of 5 goals in 12 games with the Canucks). If Booth stays healthy, keeps driving to the net, and puts up closer to 30 goals than 20 goals, that kind of production out of Booth's style of play is hard to find and we see teams pay a lot for that style of play and type of production Booth has averaged over a full season.
Case for keeping Ballard:
Despite his flaws, Ballard is clearly a better defenseman than what AV makes him out to be. The reality is that Ballard has been solid defensively the past two years and is no where near being a healthy scratch based on his talent and play alone. There's every evidence to suggest that Ballard can still play 20+ minutes a night on a team without so many quality left side defensemen as the Canucks. But even if we leave the pairings as is, Ballard has shown chemistry with Tanev and having an overpaid but underachieving bottom pairing defenseman is generally more desirable than having an overpaid but underachieving 2nd-3rd line winger.
My opinion is to keep Booth. Booth is overpaid, can disappear for stretches, and can't seem to stay healthy, but he brings an element that the Canucks lack. Booth does play a powerforward game and has the ability to manufacture offense outside of the cycle. He has the ability to move laterally with the puck to find space to shoot the puck. When the play slows down in the opposition's zone he is always around the net looking for tips and looking for opportunities to jam the puck into the net. His goals are rarely of the fancy variety but goals he worked hard for or got himself into a great scoring position. I think the closest guy to bringing what Booth brings is Jensen. And unless Jensen blossoms into a 20 goal scorer, the Canucks have little depth when it comes to top 9 forwards, especially guys with 25+ goal upside. While I think Ballard is a top 4 NHL defenseman in the NHL, he is mistake prone (the Canucks have lots already) and his role can be adequately filled by someone else in the 16-18 minutes that 5th defenseman typically play. Those are my thoughts. What do you guys think?