|Garrison had a breakout season with 16 goals, 17 assists. (Getty Images)|
When Dennis Wideman signed a new contract with the Calgary Flames that pays him an average of $5.25 million per season, there were a lot of free-agent defensemen smiling. Among them was likely Jason Garrison , the Florida Panthers blueliner who broke out this past season playing alongside Brian Campbell.
But, has his pricetag gone so high that now his options are dwindling? His preferred destinations -- either staying in Florida or going to his hometown Canucks -- just might not be able to handle the contract that it's now expected Garrison will get.
Run all this by Garrison and it's easy to see why his attention is elsewhere, even though he's holding out slight hope that he may stick in Florida or that Vancouver is still a possibility. But the 27th-ranked offence in Florida needs to be bolstered and re-signing RFA Kris Versteeg are priorities. Wideman's $5.25 million cap hit is suddenly a free-agent signing bar, and Garrison is running out of time to stay put.
“Yeah, I guess time is ticking and I'm starting to realize it,” he said. “The situation in Florida isn't over yet, but Sunday is going to come pretty quick and if nothing is done, then I'm looking forward to it. I still feel like I'm with Florida. Nothing is set in stone until July 1, but if that's what it comes down to, I've got to prepare myself for that. I'm going to take a few days and make sure I'm well prepared and make sure I know what I'm getting into.”
Who'd a thunk there'd be a downside for a player standing to receive a massive payraise? The situation with Vancouver is that they are always pushing the salary cap and so fitting Garrison in might not fit when all the rosters shake down. Moreover, the Canucks have another target in mind to fill a defensive spot: Justin Schultz. He would come at a cheaper price, has a very high ceiling and apparently is very interested in Vancouver.
Then in Florida you have a situation where the team is always conscience of the budget. The Panthers don't spend a lot of money and with a slew of defensemen waiting in the wings, Garrison might just be too rich for their blood now. All reports to this point have indicated that Garrison hadn't re-signed with Florida because they couldn't come to terms on a good price. And that was before Wideman's big deal.
It's still possible Garrison will land at one of the two continental corners, but if that's what he really wants he might have to be willing to not take as big of a pay raise. That's tough to convince a player who was an undrafted free agent and has worked himself to this point.