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Off-season Observations: Jason Garrison

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

With the opening of training camp still over a month away, we thought it would be timely to look back at last year’s offseason additions. The Lightning acquired six players in 2014 before the start of the 2014-15 season: Jonathan Marchessault, Jason Garrison, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov and Brenden Morrow. Additionally, Braydon Coburn joined the Lightning late in a trade deadline deal that added depth and stability to the blue line. We’ll review each move individually and analyze their impact on Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup Final playoff run.

Jason Garrison, defenseman

Age: 30

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 222 pounds

Acquired: From Vancouver in trade on June 27, 2014

What was said then: Jason Garrison was part of a draft-day deal that brought the veteran defenseman, the rights to F Jeff Costello and a 2015 seventh-round draft pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2014 Draft. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman went into the 2014 offseason targeting depth and experience on the blue line. He found it with Garrison, who came to Tampa Bay having played 326 career NHL games (playoffs included) through six seasons between the Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks.

“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 the day of the trade.

2014-15 stats: 6 goals, 31 assists (37 points) and plus-25 in 93 games (playoffs included).

2014-15 impact: Jason Garrison for a second-round pick? The deal’s a no-brainer in hindsight. Garrison had an outstanding first season in a Bolts sweater. He brought everything the Lightning thought they were getting when Yzerman made the trade prior to the 2014 NHL Draft, plus so much more.

Garrison matched a career-high for assists, notching 26 prior to the playoffs. His plus-27 was the best plus-minus of his career and the highest among Lightning defensemen in the regular season.

He scored twice in the playoffs, tallying in Detroit with the Lightning facing elimination in Game 6 and later providing the game-winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Garrison brought much-needed stability to the blue line. He averaged just over 20 minutes ice time a game. He played with strength and brute force but wasn’t reckless.

He took care of his defensive responsibilities while adding a presence in the offensive zone.

In short, the trade for Garrison was a key acquisition that played a substantial role in the Lightning blossoming from a playoff team to a Stanley Cup contender in 2014-15.

With three more seasons under contract, Garrison should continue to be a mainstay of the Lightning defensive unit for the foreseeable future.

2015-16 outlook: Braydon Coburn’s broken foot and an upper-body injury to Garrison kept the two defensemen from skating together for the majority of the regular season and the start of the postseason following Coburn’s arrival from Philadelphia. The two played just 27 games (4 regular season, 23 playoffs) as a top four pairing, and as the playoffs progressed, were sometimes split up among Andrej Sustr and Matt Carle based on matchups. With a full season together, the highly-skilled, big-bodied duo should develop into a premier combo and, added to the top pairing of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, give the Lightning one of the best top fours in the NHL.

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