When Sami Salo signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Canucks fans collectively freaked out for about two-and-a-half hours. I saw many cursing Mike Gillis’s name, calling for him to be fired, and lamenting in the streets in sackcloth and ashes. Then Aaron Rome signed with the Dallas Stars and some fans began to wonder if the Canucks would have any defencemen at all next season or whether the plan was to keep Roberto Luongo not as a backup to Cory Schneider but as a shot-blocking specialist on defence.
That’s the problem with the frenzy of July 1st: everyone expects something instantaneous. When the Canucks didn’t sign any free agents as soon as the sun rose and the rooster crowed, the impatience of the social media generation shone through. Not only was the sky falling, but dogs were also marrying cats. The Fraser River turned to blood, frogs rained down from the sky, and a swarm of locusts invaded downtown Vancouver and immediately began complaining about the bike lanes.
It was pandemonium. It was chaos. It was the apocalypse.
Then the Canucks signed Jason Garrison and everyone calmed the heck down.
Garrison is coming off a career year with the Florida Panthers, scoring 16 goals and 17 assists in 77 games. He finished third amongst NHL defencemen in goals behind Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber and second in powerplay goals. Garrison is consistent, great positionally, and has a bomb of a slap shot from the point. After Ryan Suter, Garrison was right alongside Matt Carle as the best defencemen on the market.
There were rumours masquerading as reports that Garrison was looking for $6.5 million. While that turned out to be an exaggeration, Bob McKenzie confirmed after the fact that Garrison was trying to get “Wideman money,” referring to the $5.25 million contract Dennis Wideman received from the Calgary Flames. Instead, Gillis managed to get him signed at the same cap hit as Kevin Bieksa, giving him a 6-year, $27.6 million deal for a $4.6 million cap hit.
There are a number of people sceptical about this deal, saying that Garrison has just one good year in the NHL. Not true: Garrison has had two good years in the NHL, just in two different roles.
Two seasons ago, he partnered with Mike Weaver (remember him?) to form one of the league’s most underrated shutdown pairs. Garrison led the Panthers in ice time during a season when they were badly outscored and started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone against tough competition, yet finished just minus-2 and had solid underlying possession numbers. Only two players who spent the entire season with the Panthers finished with a positive plus/minus rating that year.
That season, James Mirtle had Garrison pegged as the league’s second-best defensive defenceman. The player who was first? None other than Dan Hamhuis.
Garrison flourished offensively last season alongside Brian Campbell – specifically, his right side. The Canucks have a hole to fill on the right side of their own All-Star offensive defenceman, Alex Edler. Garrison certainly isn’t Christian Ehrhoff – his career-high in points came about due to some unsustainably high percentages – but that’s a good thing. Unlike Ehrhoff, Garrison is defensively responsible, versatile, and can play in all situations.
Ultimately, Garrison is more Hamhuis than he is Ehrhoff, and if Garrison can do for Edler what Hamhuis has done for Bieksa, Canucks fans are going to be very, very happy with this signing.Tags: Free Agency, Jason Garrison