Tampa’s suddenly dandy defense

The Tampa Bay Lightning knew they could use a couple of key items during the offseason.

One of them was a young, experienced defenseman and another was a back-up goaltender. Steve Yzerman continued to tidy up his summer shopping list with a nice taking from the Vancouver Canucks.

How Jason Garrison came back to the Sunshine State is interesting when you look at what’s involved:

Tampa gets Jason Garrison, rights to a college prospect in Notre Dame’s Jeff Costello and a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft all for the price of a second-round pick.

Despite the declaration that the 2014 draft lacks high-end players, a second-round pick in any draft can yield a pretty good defenseman. Taking into consideration that Jason Garrison got into the league as an undrafted college player, this pick is fair. And so I wonder why a prospect, which Vancouver just acquired from Ottawa this spring, and a low-round pick are being packaged in the deal.

Steve Yzerman has two first-round picks, so why would Vancouver give up additional assets?

Yzerman talked up how beneficial Garrison’s contract is structured, but he now is the second-highest paid defenseman on Tampa’s blue line behind Matt Carle and ahead of Victor Hedman. The $4.6 million cap hit worked for Yzerman but he could have played up on new Canucks GM Jim Benning, “geez, you know, that’s a lot of salary to be taking on for a defenseman this young. Throw in a couple of insurance measures, will ya?”

Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson looked at how the financials break down:

The contract carries a salary cap hit of $4.6 million, and includes a $1.5-million signing bonus the next two seasons. The 29-year-old will make $5 million this season, $4.5 million next season, $3.6 million in 2016-17 and $2.5 million in the final year of the deal. Tampa Bay had interest in signing Garrison when he was a free agent two years ago and he waived his no-trade clause to allow the deal to be made.

“As a player you always want to play for somebody who wants you there,’’ Garrison said. “I think if you are in a situation where they want to move you, and you just stay, you may not be as happy as playing for somebody who wants you and thinks you can play a role.”

Garrison earned his coin pumping shots on the Panthers power play, getting his hometown team Canucks to agree on a six-year, $27.6 million in 2012.  It was because of that 2012 season he got a contract, setting Florida franchise records for most goals by a defenseman in a season, 16, and tied for power play goals for a defenseman in a season with 9.

I appreciated what Garrison brought to the Panthers and was shocked the team wasn’t able to keep him as they desperately needed a winner. It turns out ownership was on its way out, leaving Dale Tallon in a salary squeeze.

Garrison also has a history of groin injuries that can become a major issue–especially on less than desirable ice conditions. The Caps had a run of bad luck with groin injuries over the years with Chris Clark, Tom Poti and Brooks Laich all having long layoffs.

He got lucky in the lockout shortened season, being able to do 47 of the 48 games to recover from his groin injury. In a full season, he only missed one game. Let’s see how he does on ice back in a state that has its ice issues.

After the trade, the team also announced Mark Barberio re-signed with the team, leaving a few defenseman left to take care of. Sami Salo is an unrestricted free agent, and I’d like to see him come back feeding pucks on the point to Garrison as long as he can keep up the pace.

I didn’t realize that Sami Salo is actually older than Dan Boyle. Salo will turn 40 in September while Boyle will turn 38 in July. It could be a push as Salo had his share of serious injuries. Boyle, another former Florida Panther, has put up more points, but you realize he is a risk for giving up goals.

They’re both right-handed shots, too, and it would seem as if it would be a fair swap, but there might not be room for Salo or Boyle now with six NHL defenseman signed. I doubt Yzerman would want Salo or Boyle or even Gudas sitting out as a seventh defeseman. With Barberio on a one-way contract now, only Gudas could be sent down.

It would be nice to have a grizzled, affordable stay-at-home veteran to help the younger defenseman to come along while not hurting the team when they’re in the line-up.  It would help keep the Syracuse Crunch stocked, which missed the playoffs.

Yzerman addressed that situation with Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, albeit about forwards, about what happens when you have good prospects:

“But its American Hockey League affiliate, Syracuse, might as Tampa Bay used a lot of its depth in playing 12 rookies, including forwards and rookie of the year finalists Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

Jonathan Drouin, the first-round pick in 2013 (third overall), is likely to impact the club this season. So, as Yzerman says, their “depth of prospects were depleted because we put them on the NHL team.”

Remember that Andrej Sustr was sent down during the season after initially making the team and that at the end, Lightning saw the names of Keith Aulie and Mike Kostka find their ways in the lineup. It would behoove the Lightning to let these younger defenseman develop and became more reliable during a call-up when the more experienced blue liners are injured.

In Friday’s first round, Yzerman selected Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, a native of South Philadelphia, as an offensive-defenseman. In a year, he could help that case to stock up the AHL club. It should be noted that DeAngelo is trying to drop his reputation after being suspended for using slurs against an official and a teammate.  Let’s hope Tampa and Syracuse can help build him back up.

“He’s going to have to change if he’s going to make it as a professional hockey player,” Yzerman told TSN’s James Duthie during the NHL Draft broadcast, adding he thinks he’s going to change for the better.

The second first-round pick was sent to the Islanders forth the 38th and 57th picks. Turning that conditional first-round pick acquired from the Rangers for Martin St. Louis into second and third round picks. Quantity is better at this stage given the slimmer chances that these lower picks get. That’s only seven spots back from the first pick when you look at it.

This GM has some major balls, and they’re working just fine so far.

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