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.
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.