Look around the league and you see a lot of great D-men putting together some pretty good offensive years. One of those is Florida’s Jason Garrison who currently leads all defenseman in goal scoring.
Some may be wondering who Jason Garrison is? His 13 goals and eight power play tallies lead all players at his position. At 6’2 and close to 220 pounds Garrison is a big sturdy left-shot D-man with a booming shot. Not only is he dangerous on the power play but he’s a solid two-way player who kills penalties which makes him as well rounded as any player on the Panthers roster. He may not receive the same recognition as Ed Jovanovski or Brian Campbell but he’s a big reason why Florida currently sits atop of their division.
Garrison’s heavy shot is what leads to his offense. He’s a good puck mover but few scouts will describe him as a dynamic offensive player. They will tell you he’s “very good” who’s just coming into his own at 27 years of age.
He’s also set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and all signs point towards him being available come July first. Considering he’s put himself in position to receive a nice raise, it’s very possible Florida GM Dale Tallon moves him prior to the trade deadline. The alternative of allowing him to walk away for nothing in the summer seems risky for a budget team like Florida.
There’s no doubt it will take a decent package to get him out of south beach. Sources suggest he’ll be seeking a contract that pays him in the $4.5 range with term this summer. Is Florida prepared to lock him up considering they already have Campbell, Jovanovski, Weaver, and Gudbranson all under control for at least two more years?
Some would say that’s a lot of money for a guy who’s done it for just one season but most will agree he’s well underpaid at $700,000. Garrison averages over 24 minutes of ice and carries a plus-6 rating.
Teams like Nashville and Florida need to be smart in terms of how they manage their assets. They would obviously prefer to hang on to him but if they know they can’t keep him moving him may be their best option.
There are plenty of teams looking for D-men and with Goligoski, Beauchemin, Liles, and Gleason all re-signing there are limited enticing options out there.
Look for Jason Arnott to move closer to the goaltender when the Blues are on the power play. Ken Hitchcock wants to get Arnott to bounce in and out of his customary position in the high slot where he’s had success throughout his career. This will allow for more east, west plays and give the Blues a true one-time option on the PP. Hitchcock tells me in order for this to work they will need whoever is positioned in front of the net to stay there.
The Blues will go with two D-men on each PP unit. This will change once they get Alex Steen back from his head injury.
Both Steen and McDonald will not make the upcoming trip. Hitchcock doesn’t want these guys to become a distraction for the media as well as the rest of the team. With them skating everyday there’s been too much focus on when they might return. They will continue to skate on their own back in St. Louis.
Their situation is different than David Perron’s considering Perron was completely symptom free once he began practicing with the team. As I’ve written before McDonald would like to be symptom free for two straight weeks before he returns to play.
Hitchcock says some players will have a short leash on the PP…they either get the job done or someone else will get a chance. The Blues don’t have the luxury of a Pittsburgh who allow Evgeny Malkin to stay on the ice for virtually the entire 2:00. The Blues best players on the PP also kill penalties which doesn’t allow for them to stay on for more than 45 seconds or so.
Look for David Backes, TJ Oshie, and Vladimir Sobotka to check Anze Kopitar’s line tonight against Los Angeles.
Blues D-man Alex Pietrangelo leads NHL players in shifts per game with 32.5.
More to come,
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