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May 28, 2012 | 5:56pm ET
Garrison could test the open market

Panthers GM Dale Tallon wants to get defenseman Jason Garrison locked up to a new contract, but the 27-year-old might want to test the free agent waters this summer.

Garrison is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 after making $700,000 this past season with Florida.

In 77 games with the Panthers this season, Garrison registered 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points, and is fourth among impending UFA defenseman in total ice time, behind only Ryan Suter, Dennis Wideman and Nicklas Lidstrom.

The Panthers have made it a priority to re-sign Garrison and right wing Kris Versteeg, who can become a restricted free agent this July, but Garrison could see his annual salary climb over the $2 million mark, and it's uncertain if Tallon is willing to dish out that kind of cash to re-sign him.

Defensemen Keaton Ellerby and Dmitry Kulikov are also set to become restricted free agents, once qualified, and both are expected to re-up with the Panthers.

Garrison's powerful shot from the point might make him very appealing to several teams in need of a new point man for their powerplay.

The Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders are all on the lookout for an upgrade on the blueline.

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