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Numbers Game: Canucks land defenceman Garrison

Scott Cullen
7/1/2012 11:51:15 PM
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The Vancouver Canucks signed a top-four defenceman who has fewer than three years of NHL experience, but was good enough to earn a six-year contract.

Numbers Game breaks down the Canucks signing hometown boy Jason Garrison.

The Canucks Get: D Jason Garrison.

Garrison, 27, has played 190 career NHL games, but really came into his own this past season, scoring a career-high 16 goals, 33 points and a plus-6 rating while playing a career-high 23:42 per game.

Those numbers are impressive enough -- 16 goals ranked third among all defencemen -- but Garrison is more than just a big blast from the point, facing a consistently high quality of competition over the last two seasons in Florida (per www.behindthenet.ca).

In fact, given Garrison's limited offensive pedigree before 2011-2012 (going back to his days at Minnesota-Duluth, when he was an unheralded teammate of Canucks winger Mason Raymond), it's more reasonable to expect that Garrison will be a reliable two-way top-four defenceman that should contribute some on the power play too, even if expecting another 16-goal season could be optimistic.

Since Vancouver's Sami Salo signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent earlier in the day, there is a natural opening for Garrison to play alongside Alexander Edler while Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa remain the Canucks' primary shutdown pair, so Garrison may actually face a lower level of even-strength competition on a consistent basis than he was typically facing in Florida.

Vancouver had to make a significant investment to get Garrison signed and a six-year deal comes with inherent risk, but the yearly cap hit of $4.6-million is reasonable enough if Garrison fulfills his anticipated top-four role.

Losing Garrison creates a hole for the Panthers that they attempted to address by signing Filip Kuba from the Ottawa Senators. Kuba certainly has a longer track record, but the 35-year-old is also at a different stage of his career, requiring a shorter-term investment.

Maybe Garrison won't live up to his deal in Vancouver (Keith Ballard was certainly more effective playing in Florida), but given the options on a relatively thin free agent market, Vancouver made a move that gives them a better chance to win both now and in the years to come.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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