June 15 2012 06:08AM
Finding UFA defensemen that can actually play defense - and do it for a decent price - is a tough task. Heading into next season, this is a crucial task for the Maple Leafs as they are in dire need of defensemen that drive play away from their terrible goaltenders.
I wanted to find some UFA's that weren't a known commodity that will also be available for cheap, come July first. I'm quickly realizing though that the unknown players are unknown for a reason. UFA's that are actually good have already been talked about to death.
Jason Garrison had a breakout season last year and may be a decent option for the Leafs. Providing they clear up some cap room, obviously.
A deeper look over the jump.
Garrison really had a fine season last year. He scored 16 goals (nine on the power play) to go along with 15 assists. Good for fifth on the Panthers in total points and first in power play goals. Along with some nice point totals is also a seemly decent defensive player. He has played against some decent competition the past couple of seasons. In 2011 and 2012 he had a 1.492 and 0.479 Corsi QoC respectively. Last year he was able to post a very decent Corsi number coming in with a 10.8 Corsi Rel.
Garrison is a fairly big body and he doesn't mind throwing it around. He's 6-2, 220 and has 230+ hits the past couple seasons. He has also only missed 19 games over the past three years between the AHL and NHL so, even though his talent level might be suspect you know he will always be there. With only two full seasons and 190 games in the NHL he will most likely come in fairly cheap as a UFA.
Much like every single one of the Florida Panthers, Jason Garrison is due for a lot of regression next year. Not only was his shooting percentage more then double the previous years' he also scored his first nine power play goals of his career this year. With only seven power play goals in 113 games in the AHL it's a little hard to believe he has suddenly become a power play specialist.
Last year really was Garrison's first good season in the NHL. With all of the problems the Leafs have had with defensemen regressing after donning the Blue and White, signing Garrison might be a bit of a gamble. If he will come cheap I think he is likely a better option then two or three of our current defensemen manning the blueline. Of course, you could say that about most of the defensemen that pulled on a NHL sweater this year.
He also already knows Luke Schenn.