Just as Hockey fans in BC had the pitchforks ready to greet GM Mike Gillis, the former player agent turned around and made a move that will make Canucks fans feel slightly more optimistic towards the future, especially on the blue-line.
With no signings by the Canucks during the first 8 hours of free agency, the arrival of 27-year-old Garrison was unveiled at around 5pm PST via Twitter. Garrison was a favourite to be signed by Vancouver due to the current lack of defenceman and became a necessary acquisition after the club lost veteran blue-liner Sami Salo earlier in the day to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Garrison is a native of BC, raised in White Rock and played junior hockey for the Nanaimo Clippers in the BCHL. The undrafted defenceman had a breakout season in 2011/12 for the Florida Panthers, scoring 33 points in 77 games, setting a Panthers defensive franchise record with 16 goals.
The new deal for Garrison is reported to be a 6 year contract at $4.6 million a season ($27.6 million total). While this deal is high for a player who had a cap hit of only $675,000 last year, Gillis cleverly matched the $4.6 million Kevin Bieksa currently earns, ensuring Garrison was not the stand-alone highest defensive earner, signing him for much less than the $6.5 million the player was rumoured to be asking for earlier in the day.
When compared to a cap hit of $5.25 million for newly acquired Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, Garrison’s contract does not seem all that bad. Whether or not this can be considered a “hometown” discount remains to be seen but credit must go to Mike Gillis for getting this deal done for a fairly reasonable amount when compared to the current UFA market prices.
While one chapter ends in Vancouver with the loss of fan favourite Sami Salo, a new one begins with the BC boy, Jason Garrison. While Shea Weber and Ryan Suter may just be out of reach for Vancouver due to the big money involved with signing them, the future is suddenly looking a lot brighter than it was yesterday. Add in a player like Shane Doan to the mix as well as a good return on Luongo and expect the Canucks to once again be a top Stanley Cup contender next season.