The Vegas Golden Knights have selected defenseman Jason Garrison from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Expansion Draft. In addition, the Lightning sent them the rights to Nikita Gusev along with a 2017 second-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick in exchange for the Golden Knights to take Garrison.
Goodbye, Garrison! Thank you for this:
The speculation surrounding Garrison has been pretty strong the past few days so it’s not much of a surprise that he was involved in the deal. The news about Nikita Gusev though came around just this morning. Gusev was a seventh-round pick of the Lightning in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, he was an overage pick that looked to need a lot of developing. He was also a teammate and close friend of Nikita Kucherov during their junior hockey years.
General Manager Steve Yzerman has likely been trying to get Gusev to come to North America without any luck. The lure of money and playing in the KHL after he broke out with Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk in the KHL and then with SKA St. Petersburg kept him in Russia. With questions surrounding Gusev’s size and defensive abilities, Yzerman likely wanted him to go to the AHL to adjust to the smaller ice surface. Since that would have involved a significant pay cut, it made it an unattractive option for Gusev.
With the Vegas Golden Knights, Gusev may have more incentive to come over with a guarantee of NHL playing time. In addition, he can join his SKA St. Petersburg linemate Vadim Shipachyov, who signed with Vegas earlier this summer. Reports have surfaced that Gusev was terminating his contract with SKA and seeking a bigger pay day. The move to Vegas could provide him with that pay day. Even with his rights, there is no guarantee for Vegas, or for Tampa before them, that he would choose to come across the Atlantic Ocean to play hockey.
In the end, the Lightning avoided giving up the 14th overall draft pick, or a future first-round pick, by sending Gusev, a second, and a fourth to Vegas. The presence of an extra second-round pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired in the Brian Boyle trade made it easier to give up a 2nd round pick.
The additional benefit of the deal was to protect young defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin, along with forwards Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown from selection. Yzerman has also gained flexibility under the salary cap to address the blue line in a further transaction weather a trade or the signing of a free agent defenseman. Garrison was slated to count $4.6 million against the cap in 2017-18.
Garrison’s play has declined the past two seasons dropping from 30 points in his first season with the Lightning in 2014-15 to just 11 points and 9 points the past two seasons. He does have a special achievement to his credit though by having scored the first 3-on-3 overtime goal since the NHL introduced the new overtime format for the 2015-16 season.