PHILADELPHIA – There was speculation that the Tampa Bay Lightning might look to free agency for a veteran blueliner this offseason, however, the Bolts managed to acquire a defenseman via trade with the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.
Vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced the acquistition of defenseman Jason Garrison, the rights to forward Jeff Costello and a seventh-round draft pick in 2015 in exchange for a second-round pick this year Hours before the 2014 NHL draft was set to begin. It was a decision that began when Vancouver called Yzerman Thursday night.
“We were weighing our options in free agency,” Yzerman said. “When this opportunity came along, knowing what the contract was and the fact that it fit our needs, it made sense.”
Garrison was surprised to hear the Canucks were interested in trading him, but after letting the initial shock subside, he decided to waive his no-trade clause.
“It took a couple weeks for the news to settle and realize that my time was up in Vancouver,” Garrison said. “It’s not in your hands as much as people think it is, but you get a little say and Tampa Bay was interested in me a couple years ago.
“You want to play for a team that has a lot of interest in you and we were able to make a deal happen.”
Garrison adds strength to the Bolts' defensive core. It was also an area the Bolts scouting staff felt was better addressed through trade rather than through the draft, as they are confident in their young blueliners within their system.
Garrison, who has 318 career games of NHL experience under his belt with Vancouver and the Florida Panthers, also brings strength and a bigger body to the Lightning defense, which will be a good compliment to another towering Bolts blueliner, Victor Hedman.
The specifics of how exactly he will fit into Tampa Bay’s roster is a decision that is up to head coach Jon Cooper, but Yzerman expects him to play a crucial role in the lineup.
“He’s been a top-four to top-two defensive pairing guy throughout his 4-5 years in the NHL, so we expect that to continue,” Yzerman said.
As for Garrison, being a part of a younger team allows him to take on more of a leadership role, especially among the blue line.
“I'm looking forward to coming to Tampa,” Garrison said. “There are so many great pieces to the team and it’s not about changing anything I do, but fitting it and making the team better.”
And while his experiences playing against a new-age Tampa Bay team were brief, facing them only twice last season as part of the Western Conference, they brought about vivid memories.
“When we played them last year, it was a very good team – young, skilled and energetic,” Garrison said. “I think they killed us to be honest. They’re going in the right direction and I’m hoping I can fit in and be apart of that.”
The move still leaves the Lightning with seven remaining selections between Friday and Saturday, as Yzerman said the opportunity was exactly what they were looking for and the number of picks they had left the Lightning with flexibility.