NHL free agency: Jason Garrison a solid option behind Suter, Carle

TORONTO - OCTOBER 26: Jason Garrison #52 of the Florida Panthers shoots during warmup before game action at the Air Canada Centre October 26 2010 in Toronto Ontario Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

As we've already established, the UFA stock on defense falls off a cliff after Ryan Suter and Matt Carle. It's why the Flyers are in a pretty awful position right now -- it's either pay a lot of money for Carle or see him move elsewhere, a position the team probably can't afford.

We've already looked at Filip Kuba as a possible option on defense. Now, let's look at what could be a brighter option: Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison.

Jason Garrison

#52 / Defenseman / Florida Panthers

6-2

216

Age: 27

Nov 13, 1984

11/12 Cap Hit: $675,000

Status: UFA

advanced stats key -- number in parentheses is team rank

GP G A P +/- PIM SOG PP Pts Blocks PP TOI/G TOI/G
77 16 17 33 +6 32 168 19 124 2:31 23:41
TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Rel QoT Pts/60 GF/60 GA/60 OZ% PDO Corsi Rel Sh% Sv%
17.74 (2) 1.015 (2) 2.076 (1) 0.83 (2) 2.20 (3) 1.80 (1) 53.7 (3) 1008 (3) 10.8 (1) 7.15 (3) .936 (1)

Garrison is all but gone in Florida, where fans at Litter Box Cats are preparing his exit. Why's that, exactly?

Well, it all comes down to money. Garrison had a great 2011-12 season and will command far more than the Panthers are able to afford, barring a hometown discount that LBC says is highly unlikely. (It's the Panthers, ya know?)

But who the hell is Jason Garrison? He's certainly not a household name around the NHL. We'll let LBC explain for us because they know him far better than we.

After a season in which he shattered his previous point totals and tied the club record for most goals by a defenseman in a season (16), Garrison cemented his status as an important fixture on the blueline for Florida, and the club clearly was a different one without him on the ice.

Garrison's impact on the powerplay was very apparent, and his chemistry with the newly-acquired Brian Campbell gave the Panthers an impact pairing on both ends of the ice. When Garrison missed some time during the Panthers playoff series against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Panthers clearly lacked an option to replace him both defensively and on the man advantage, and both fans and teammates were relieved when he returned during the series to bolster the Cats when they needed it most.

He was a top-pairing defenseman for the Panthers this past season. He sports a heavy shot from the point which can help on the power play and he can chip in on the penalty kill as well. He's used to taking on top competition and while he was sent out in the offensive end of the ice more often than not under coach Kevin Dineen last season, he's good enough that he could probably take on tougher situations than he saw a year ago with success.

He's a great puck mover and has solid size, but some scouting reports knock him for not always using that size to his advantage on the defensive side of the puck. (Ut oh, that sounds like a certain No. 25 in orange... )

All things told, Garrison would be my option should the Flyers miss out on Carle. He's on the younger side at 27-years-old, he's gradually improved in each of the last few seasons and he won't command the kind of money a lot of these other guys will. He's only played 190 games in the NHL -- that's a strong bargaining point against him.

He's getting a big raise from somebody on July 1 -- but around $5 million per year could be feasible (and yes, that shows just how expensive getting defensive players on the UFA market can be). I'd expect him to get less than Dennis Wideman money, but not necessarily too much less than that thanks to the bidding war that will likely spring up around him on Sunday.

A solid defensive player who can eat minutes against the opposition's best while chipping in a decent amount of offense, Garrison would be a really solid addition should the Flyers fail to re-sign Matt Carle in free agency.

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