With three impending unrestricted free agents amongst the seven defencemen on their NHL roster, it doesn't take a hockey savante to figure out that Ottawa's blue line could look considerably different when training camp opens next fall.
While the intents of the organization are unknown, it seems unlikely that the Senators will make concerted efforts to bring back Filip Kuba, Matt Carkner or last night's healthy scratch, Matt Gilroy.
Although there is some optimism that current Binghamton defencemen like a Mark Borowiecki, an Eric Gryba or even a Patrick Wiercioch could play in some NHL games next season, none of the aforementioned players should realistically be expected to contribute in anything more than a sixth or seventh defenceman capacity.
Whether it is through free agency or a trade, one would hope that management would make a concerted effort to address a defensive unit that contributes to the league's second worst shots allowed per game (31.8) rate.
One potential avenue for the Senators to explore is Florida's Jason Garrison. With 16 goals, he is tied with Shea Weber for the second most goals amongst defencemen, trailing only Erik Karlsson's 19 tallies. While this is partly percentage driven as he's 23rd in d-man shots, it's still more than double the total Kuba's fired on net.
With nine power play goals, one would think that Garrison's booming shot would be a welcome addition to many NHL clubs, however, based off today's Jim Matheson article in the Edmonton Journal, one might think otherwise.
The line’s forming to the right for Florida UFA defenceman Jason Garrison, who has 16 goals, second only to Erik Karlsson. The Panthers have offered $2.5 million a year, but he’s barely given the offer the time of day after making $600,000 this year. The feeling is he figures he can get $4 million on the open market. Should the Oilers be in the hunt? Yes, but with reservations. They could use somebody to pound the puck — he’s a shooter not a passer, playing with Brian Campbell which gives him the leeway to fire away — but there are niggling concerns.
Offered $2.5 million? The Florida Panthers are the same organization that would have given Valeri Bure $3 million this offseason provided that it would have got them to the NHL salary cap floor, right?
Why the low ball offers? Matheson has more...
“He’s a No. 5 defenceman,” said one NHL team executive. Plus, he’s only lit it up for one year. There’s no body of work here. That said, it’s a very shallow free-agent market for blue-liners, so he’s holding all the cards. Garrison is six-foot-two and 220lbs, but not physical. He’s only 27, from Vancouver. The Oilers are probably on the hunt.Assuming that this unnamed executive wasn't Bryan Murray, what a crazy bastard! (Note: And if it was Bryan Murray, I'll just favorably pretend it was a savvy effort to drive down the market's price.)
Garrison can score but he's not just some power play specialist. He has the sixth highest Relative Corsi metric in the league and plays more than 23 minutes a night playing against the opposition's best players. In fact, as Scott alluded to on Twitter:
Hopefully for Ottawa's sake, hockey analysts and executives continue to criminally underrate Garrison. It's something Jonathan Willis wrote about last year identifying Garrison as part of "The Game's Most Underrated Defense Pairing", similarily James Mirtle had him finishing #2 in his hypothetical "Rob Langway Award" for best defensive defenseman. More praise could be found in his scouting report for the 2011-12 Hockey Prospectus Annual:
Heroic indeed and in light of having last year's defensive partner replaced by Brian Campbell, Garrison could very well be a suitable replacement for Filip Kuba. He of a similair size at 6'2, 225 with the left-shot you'd want to be paired with Karlsson. Being eight years the Czech's junior doesn't hurt either.
Sure, there will be some cynical naysayers (or PHWA voters) who will ignore his puck possession and quality of competition metrics, but with 119 block shots and 116 hits this season, you just know that he has to be good defenceman!