PHILADELPHIA — The Lightning began Friday by satisfying its biggest immediate need, acquiring a top-four defenseman in Jason Garrison from Vancouver.
Then Tampa Bay finished off the night by selecting a player it believes can grow into a top-four defenseman, grabbing Anthony DeAngelo at No. 19 in the first round of the NHL draft. DeAngelo, 18, from Sarnia in the Ontario junior league, was considered the best offensive defenseman in the draft. He compares his game to that of former Lightning player Dan Boyle.
"The only thing missing was Pharrell Williams singing the Happy song,'' quipped Al Murray, the Lightning director of amateur scouting, about the day. "Otherwise, everything was perfect."
Garrison was the biggest story, giving Tampa Bay a veteran expected to play big minutes. Plus, Garrison, 29, is under team control through 2017-18 with a favorable, front-loaded contract.
All Yzerman had to give up for Garrison, as well as the rights to Notre Dame senior forward Jeff Costello, was his second-round pick (50th overall). But the Lightning recouped two second-round picks for this year by trading its second first-rounder (No. 28 overall) to the Islanders for Nos. 35 and 57.
Garrison, from White Rock, British Columbia, had to waive his no-trade clause to leave his hometown Canucks, but he said it was an easy decision after finding out Tampa Bay was interested. "Initially, it was surprising," he said. "It didn't feel like my time (in Vancouver) was over. It's shocking, for sure, for the first little bit, but obviously you have to cope with it and turn the page. It's been kind of an awkward process."
Yzerman didn't know Garrison was available until Thursday night, when he got a call from Canucks general manger Jim Benning, who asked if he was interested. Yzerman certainly was, liking Garrison's size (6-2, 218), shot and two-way style, as well as the structure of his contract, which has a $4.6 million annual cap hit. Garrison will make $5 million next season. His salary drops to $4.5 million the season after, then to $3.6 million in 2016-17 and $2.5 million in the final year. It helped that Yzerman got a ringing endorsement from associate coach Rick Bowness, who coached Garrison in Vancouver in 2012-13.
"I said, 'He could play on every team in this league and play an important role,' " Bowness said. "He's that good of a player. Having coached him, you know his character, you know his heart (and) work habits, you know he's a good teammate. Those are important intangibles that we want in our players."
Garrison can't wait to join a team he's admired from afar. "I like it a lot," he said. "They have a very good group of young guys, young talent. It was unbelievable the talent and the skill level on the team. They play a very quick pace and transition game. I think it's going to be a lot of fun fitting in."
Garrison racked up 33 points in each of his last two full seasons (16 in the shortened 2012-13 lockout year), including a career-high 16 goals with the Panthers in 2011-12. He averaged 20:52 minutes a game last season in playing a career-high 81 games. Bowness said Garrison, who shoots left, can play the left and right side, and has a potent power-play shot. Garrison, a veteran of 318 career games, said he has room to grow and is happy to do it in Tampa Bay, pointing out that having no immediate family makes the unexpected move easier.
With DeAngelo, who had 71 points in 51 games last season, there are risks. He was suspended eight games for saying a slur to a teammate. But Murray said his staff spent more time on DeAngelo than any prospect in his career and is confident in his character.
"It's been an interesting day," Yzerman said. "Pretty exciting."