CANUCKS LAND GARRISON
By Derek Jory
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
A door bursts open down the hallway.
Cheering. Cheering. Cheering.
The Vancouver Canucks got their man Sunday and he goes by the name of Jason Garrison.
Canucks headquarters was silent for much of the free agency frenzy on July 1st, but from my office great commotion was to be heard just before 5 p.m. PST when Vancouver’s war room celebrated the acquisition of the 27-year-old, 6-foot-2, 220-pound defenceman.
Garrison, a native of White Rock, BC, had 33 points (16-17-33) and 32 penalty minutes in 77 games with the Florida Panthers last season; he’s played in 190 NHL games racking up 23 goals, 36 assists and 81 PIM.
Garrison is coming off the best year of his NHL career, including a Panthers franchise record 16 goals, and the six-year deal he received from the Canucks reflects Gillis’ belief the blueliner will be a powerhouse for years to come.
“He’s got great size, skates well and make a great first pass and he fits into the way we play,” explained Gillis. “He’s going to get plenty of opportunity now that Sami Salo isn’t here to play on our power play and utilize his size and his speed and his shot, so he fits in really well with where we’re trying to go.
“We’re very excited, we think there’s tremendous upside there.”
Gillis said Garrison’s breakout 2011-12 campaign can be credited to his evolution as a player and the positive situation he was presented with in Florida. Vancouver, Gillis stressed, can also create pairings that will again allow Garrison to evolve and bring the most to the ice he can.
At the end of the day it came down to intangibles and Garrison has them all.
“We wanted size, we wanted another guy who can shoot the puck on the power play and we wanted character and he fits all those criteria,” said Gillis, adding Garrison made is clear early Sunday he had a desire to play in his home province.
“We wanted to get more size and we wanted to get a little bit younger and keep within our salary parameter and we’re fortunate to have a young man who wanted to come back to Vancouver and wanted to play with us and was prepared to work with us on a structure to get it done.”
Patience pays off more times than not and this is another instance where Gillis and the Canucks got the man they wanted by not rushing into things. The Canucks general manager was prepared to hold off doing anything Sunday before a deal with Garrison was reached.
Now Vancouver’s defence is a lot younger, stronger and versatile thanks to Garrison.
“We went through this same experience with Dan Hamhuis, a player who really wanted to come here and play and at the end of the day, they both left money on the table with other teams to come here and be part of what we’re trying to do.
“For us, that’s really important, we think it’s critical for his teammates and critical for him to step into the same kind of environment that we’re used to having and when that happens, we’re quite pleased.”
The Garrison signing was the only action of the day for the Canucks, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Management was working the phones both making and taking calls all day and Vancouver was involved in various other deals, according to Gillis, but when it got down to the nitty gritty, the Canucks, having most of their salary spoken for, had to back out.
“We were involved in a lot of discussions, but with some of them, when the numbers came back, we were eliminated right away,” explained Gillis. “We have cap space, but we don’t have 30 million in cap space and have to spend it in order to comply with the current CBA. In some situations that put us at a distinct disadvantage, but we’re okay with that. We wouldn’t have done some of those things at that level anyways.”
Salo to Tampa Bay
Mike Gillis on Sami Salo signing a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning:
”Sami was an excellent hockey player, but he is a better person and we’re going to miss him a lot. With where we are situated today and what we’re trying to do, the most on term we could go was one-year and I think Sami has made a wonderful deal for himself and his family moving forward and I wish him the best of luck and I hope he stays healthy and does well.”
Schultz to Edmonton
Gillis on free agent defenceman Justin Schultz choosing to sign in Edmonton:
”He was very pleased with what we presented, he was very keen on our situation and our team, but made a gut decision. As long as we’re involved in attracting young players and attracting players that are high quality and have an opportunity to get them, we’re happy. In this case it didn’t workout, but we’re looking forward to the next opportunity.”