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Canucks continue tear down, Lightning move closer to contender status in Jason Garrison trade

Trevor Linden, Jim Benning and Vancouver Canucks continued their transition in Vancouver by trading Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay for a second round pick. But while the tear down goes on in Vancouver, Tampa Bay is pulling itself in the opposite direction.

In one day – so far, at least – the Vancouver Canucks shaved $5.6 million off their cap and that’s what the Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison deals were about. Yes, the Canucks are moving into a new phase and the cap space they’ve picked up will help them achieve it.

Now, Vancouver can get a little more aggressive in acquiring the elite futures they couldn’t get in a Kesler trade. For instance, they could go after a top four pick in this draft, or a good young player or two from some other team, and have the ability to take back an overpriced contract to help facilitate such a move. It also gives them plenty of room to chase free agent Ryan Miller in a few days, if GM Jim Benning so chooses.

Either way, Vancouver’s first two moves Friday are only the beginning of a much bigger shift, it seems

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay continues its push for contender status in the East.

Two days after re-signing pending UFA Ryan Callahan for six years at a $5.8 million cap hit, GM Steve Yzerman was aggressive with his payroll instead of sitting back on a good season that could have been better with a healthy Ben Bishop in the playoffs.

At $4.6 million for four more years, there’s no telling how much Garrison will regress by the end of the contract, but he should at least be able to provide a strong shooting dynamic to the power play throughout. With his heavy shot, Garrison provides a scoring presence from the back end that the Lightning didn’t have enough of before.

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The defenseman had to waive his no-trade clause before he could get moved, so you know he was willing to return to the state where he enjoyed his greatest NHL success. Garrison was a member of the Florida Panthers for three seasons, scoring 16 goals in 2011-12. That onslaught is what earned him his current contract.

Some teams may balk at spending such a good chunk of cap space on a one-dimensional defenseman who will turn 30 this season. But when you’re making a push, it’s OK to spend, and sometimes sacrifice, cap space to get there. And since the Lightning didn’t need to sacrifice anything off the roster (they gave up a second round pick in the trade), it’s a good time to pick up a helpful asset at a low cost.

And it’s not like the East is…well, the West. Tampa’s conference is open to just about anyone.

The Lightning got even more interesting Friday afternoon. With a strong young core – including two Calder finalists – one of the league’s best snipers, a Vezina finalist, and now an improvement in their weakest area, keep watch of Tampa Bay next season. In the East, they’re a dangerous team, bordering on contender status.

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