Offseason Transactions Deep Dive: The Jason Garrison Trade

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If it feels like it has been quite some time since the frenzy of moves the Vancouver Canucks made in that hectic stretch bridging the end of June and beginning of July, it’s because it has been. With the summer now officially having been put in the rearview mirror as training camps are set to begin across the league, we’re running a 5-part series reviewing what the Canucks did this summer, and what it means for them moving forward.

This deep dive was executed by the excellent MoneyPuck_ on Twitter, who has contributed content for us in the past.

Very shortly following the previously discussed Ryan Kesler trade, a second major set of trades the new braintrust for the Canucks made came down the pike. That included sending Jason Garrison and spare parts to Tampa Bay in exchange for a draft pick in the following day’s 2nd round, which was only to be re-packaged to Los Angeles in exchange for Linden Vey before the team could actually use it themselves.

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Jason Garrison

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The Canucks went into the offseason with a dire need to get younger and improve their forward depth. Other than Kesler, the only area of strength they had to trade from was their already inherent depth on the back-end, and Garrison was the most obviously expendable member of the Canucks top-five defensemen. 

Last season Garrison continued to generate a ton of shots and was the Canucks highest point-getter on the blueline. However, his possession numbers took a major nose dive despite him not having to face the toughest competition or most difficult zone starts. 

Garrison’s relative corsi was -3.3%, which means the Canucks did markedly better in terms of outshooting their opponents when Garrison was on the bench as opposed to when he was on the ice. In fact, of the league’s 113 top 4 defensemen (over 15 minutes/game at even strength in 60+ games played) Garrison had the 16th worst relative corsi of the bunch. This could have been the result of Tortorella’s coaching style, but it could also have been the effect chronic groin issues which has reportedly bothered Garrison for quite a while now.

As time progressed, it seemed to have been impacting the quality of his play more and more visibly. For much of the season he looked like he was a step behind the play, which seems to be confirmed by his penalties drawn differential (penalties drawn less penalties taken); at -19 he had the 4th worst ratio out of that aforementioned group of defensemen.

Last season, the Canucks were the only NHL team to have 5 defensemen play over 20 minutes a game (min. 60 games played). With Garrison’s decline in play, health question marks, and huge contract moving forward it was abundantly clear that he was the most expendable member of the Canucks defense corps. The concerns surrounding him got to the point where there was deserved chatter regarding a potential compliance buyout being used to rid the team of him, saving themselves from having to foot the entire bill.

With that being said, Tampa Bay’s interest in him made ample sense. In contrast to the Canucks, the Lightning only had two players that fit the criteria of 20+ min per game for 60+ games (Victor Hedman and Matt Carle), so even with questions marks around his effectiveness you can see why Steve Yzerman was interested in the player. 

Need some help with all that fancy stat lingo, this will help

Linden Vey

Tampa is widely regarded as having one of the best prospect pools in the league, so it was no surprise they were willing to give away the 50th overall and pick up Garrison’s significant contract to shore up what is one of the weaker defensive corps in the league.

According to TSN’s Scott Cullen, the 50th overall picks historically has a 32% chance of playing 100 NHL games, so just as the Garrison trade made sense for Tampa Bay, shipping the pick the Canucks received for him off to LA for someone with Linden Vey’s profile made just as much sense for Jim Benning. 

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At just 23 years old, Vey has produced admirably at every level leading up to the NHL, and after developing into a point per game player at the AHL level it appears that he is ready to make the jump to the NHL. He did enjoy a short 18 game stint with the Kings this past season, where he played limited minutes in a fourth line role with Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis.

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The Kings were the strongest possession team in the league last year, so it comes as no surprise that the fourth line’s Corsi For was weak relative to the rest of the team. That, the fact that it was his first NHL stint, and that it was saddled next to someone like Jordan Nolan should be enough reason to refrain from judging Vey’s underlying numbers from last season too harshly. 

Salary Cap Room

The third element to this trade was the $3.9M in cap space the Canucks netted after moving Garrison to Tampa for the pick that was used to acquire Vey. Effectively, this cap space paid for ¾’s of Radim Vrbata’s new contract, which proved to be a key component of the Canuck’s offseason game plan of replacing Ryan Kesler’s scoring and improving what was the third worst offense in the league last year.

Conclusion

This is a ultimately a tough one to evaluate. Garrison is one of the weaker top-4 defensemen in the league, and there are major concerns about his health going forward. That said, he still is a top 4 defenseman in a league where players like Andrew MacDonald, Brooks Orpik, and Dan Boyle all signed this summer for around his AAV if not more, so it’s a bit surprising that the Canucks were only able to get a second round pick from Tampa for him.

With that being said, the Canucks were clearly dealing from an area of strength. That, and the fact that they were able to exploit LA’s roster crunch in grabbing a young, skilled forward like Vey should help alleviate any disappointment over the initial return from Tampa Bay.

Previously in this series:

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Turning a clear mistake (signing Garrison and allowing Salo to walk) into a small win (a 2nd round pick and eventually Vey) has probably been Benning’s swiftest piece of asset management so far.

    Espescially considering the NTC obstacle…

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Great analysis, I agree completely. Garrison was a nice guy, but overrated based on one very good season on a weak team. Getting Sbisa, and with young dmen only a year or two a way, this was a very safe trade to make. It was also clear that Tanev needed more minutes and playing Edler with either Bieksa or Garrison, caused him to play poorly. I can understand this, as after all these years I don’t trust Bieksa except when he is with Hamhuis, who can cover for his goof ups.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Although apparently the key to getting him to waive the NTC was Steve Yzerman’s call convincing him to come over to TB. I am sure the words “PP”, “Stamkos”, and “east coast travel schedule” didn’t hurt either.

      In light of all the obstacles I’m frankly surprised that we got as much as a second rounder for him.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I agree that it was shrewd business by Benning. Top 4 minutes aside, Garrison’s cap hit and NTC reduced his trade value considerably. A second seems like a fair decent. Vey for that second could be excellent value.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    I disagree inherently with this article and any talk about Jason Garrison being anything but a quality defenseman in this league. Any talk about compliance buyouts is laughable.

    First of all, last season was Garrrisons 1st season with below average advanced stats. in 4 1/2 season in the NHL, he had below avg season. Guess what, it also coincided with the ENTIRE team having horrible either advanced stats or boxcar numbers. Garrison was 1 of many busts last season. You know what they say about small sample sizes.

    Secondly, guess who his most common partner last season was? Ya, Alex Edler. And I don’t need to delve into the kind of season Edler had.

    Thirdly, points. As Canucks fans are aware of – they don’t have players who can put up points. Since Garrison became a Canucks he’s been top 3 point producer for this team – despite only getting regular PP time last season (in which he was top point producer from back end). from my standpoint, Garrisobn biggest value was his ability to keep the puck out of his own net, but going forward, they need people who can put up points given how they were one of the lowest scoring teams in league for consecutive yrs. So they trade their leading point producing dman for a rookie who put up belwo avg advanced stats on the best puck possession team this leagues seen in a long time? Caman. It’s just laughable.

    Fourthly, cap space. Why did the Canucks need to trade Garrison to gain cap space? The answer: they didn’t. They still have cap space. But essentially they traded Garrison to sign a 34 yr old goaltender, Ryan Miller. The same Ryan Miller who’s #’s are declining. Same guy who couldn’t handle the heat in a Buffalo, so he’s gonna love it in high pressure Vancouver, right? Same guy who but equal or poorer numbers than Canucks property Eddlie Lack last season. Would u rather have your leading point producer d-man, or a 34 yr old goalie who take up $6M of capspace for the next 3 yrs and is equal to his back up. Sound familiar? Yap. Recycle. Repeat.

    Finally, there was a newspaper article (I think from Botchford) who stated Garrison played virtually the entire season on a broken ankle. So not only was he dealing with groin issues (which he’s been dealing with for yrs yet still had great advanced stats), but he’s playing on a broken ankle.

    In conclusion, like the majority of the trades Benning made this summer – this one was a bust. Not only a bust, but a major calculating error. Tough mins dman with effective advanced stats are hard to find and ever harder to obtain. $4.6M cap hit is a steal for them. Canucks just traded that guy for what will likely be a bottom 6 player who are easily found in free agency.

    • Fred-65

      As you pointed out every one had a bad season under the Tort regime…then you pick out Edler as though he was the only player that was disapointing. Garrison is a soft player who looked like he left one skate in the locker room. He played with one of the greatest offensive D’men in the league in Florida and padded his stats. The worse of it all was we let a RH D’man go and replaced him with a LH mediocre D. Benning was lucky to find a taker. Think of all the other offers he must have had for this hot asset. What Benning got was what he was worth. If other teams had offered more then he would have taken it…. there wasn’t any.

    • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

      Even if all the stats are correct one point remains clear and that was a #5 Dman with health issues was going to get almost 5 mil.

      Canucks needed young forward depth and they got what they needed. You can take issue with the stats but not the team situation. Benning watch Vey play on Manchester and Coach Willie coached him in WHL.

      They now who they got and we know who we let go. Garrisons skills were shooting the puck and he hasn’t tallied enough to garner his salary. Much rather have Tanev in his place. Webber can bring a right handed shot to the PP.

    • Fred-65

      Did you actually watch Garrison play? The injury was clearly a factor but he looked slow as hell last year and for an offensive d-man wasn’t all that much of a factor. It’s not like he made the PP click. He doesn’t have the skating or mobility to make it work in the way that the last decent PP specialist we had who could actually play a regular shift (Erhoff) did and despite his seeming heavy shot he had nothing like the cannon and accuracy of Salo. I like Garrison as a person and player well enough but if Booth wasn’t worth the money, Garrison sure as hell wasn’t. A great deal for us. I think he’ll get some good points this year and picked him up in my pool as a last pick for my D because he’s going to get point with Palat and Stamkos and the rest but he wasn’t worth it for the Canucks.

  • Fred-65

    While I agree this was a trade that likely needed to be made, I would seriously dispute the characterization of it as Benning making a silk purse of a sow’s ear.

    The new management came in and had to make a decision: fire sale & total rebuild, or attempt to milk at least one or two more productive seasons from the Sedins. They chose option 2.

    Having chosen, they needed to find a first-line winger to play with the Sedins. Granted, they could have waited to see if Burrows would heal up & return to form; but finding a replacement covers all bases. Either Burrows returns to form, and the Canucks have their best depth at wing in a long while, or he does not, and they have someone else who can play with the Sedins.

    In order to do that, they need to move a defenceman. At the time, they had 5 top-4 dmen. Bieksa and Edler had announced they would not go anywhere; Hamhuis, the team’s best overall defenceman, was needed to keep the blue line relevant. That left Garrison and Tanev–and only Garrison had an AAV that could get a top-6 winger.

    It was a salary dump, pure and simple; and the fact that Yserman reached out to Garrison to ask him to waive the NTC suggests that Stevie Y, who has not yet proven himself to be a poor judge of on-ice talent, thought he could help the Lightning challenge the Bruins for tops in the East.

    If you use the old maxim that whoever got the better player “won” the trade, you really cannot escape the fact that the Bolts won this trade. That’s not a criticism of Benning, by the way; this was a case where Benning wanted to lose the trade, but pick up a useful asset that might improve his team further down the road. They both got what they wanted–Benning was able to free up cash to get Vrbata and rolled the pick into a promising NHL-ready prospect; Yserman got a veteran minute-devouring defenceman who can produce goals and points on the PP.

  • Fred-65

    In the salary cap era, money is king. Players like Garrison are worth a lot less on the trade market because they eat up cap. It’s not a knock on Garrison, as much as it is a reality in the new NHL. The trade value of the proverbial Bag of Pucks has gone way up, because his cap hit is zero. Benning wanted cap space and had surplus of defensemen. Tampa had cap room, and the ability to give up a 2nd rounder due to system depth. For the Canucks, getting Vey is fantastic. Getting Garrison could be equally fantastic for Tampa. But we all have evaluate trades much differently. The “best player” rule no longer applies, as his cap hit is high and effects the entire roster.