Trade Targets: Brenden Morrow
DISCLAIMER: I’m no NHL Insider(r?) nor am I pretending to be. My only sources are my own pure speculation based on what I know from watching other teams around the league. Nothing in this post should be interpreted as insider information or substantial rumors.
One of the time-honored traditions of being a hockey fan in armchair-GMing. What’s more fun that speculating about trades for your favorite team? As a hockey fan with an aversion to sleeping on time and a GameCenter Live subscription, I see a good bit on non-Penguins hockey and I’ve gotten to know how a lot of other players play. This is a series that will profile some of the players around the NHL who might look good in a Penguins uniform.
Brenden Morrow (age 34)
LW, Dallas Stars
Contract Status: UFA 2013
Cap hit: $4.1 million
The Penguins are lacking two things in a lot of fans’ eyes. The most obvious is a top-six winger to round out the top two lines. The other thing is something a bit less… tangible. In 2009, Ray Shero added two Cup-winning forwards to complement their young core. Chris Kunitz came over from Anaheim and Bill Guerin came from the New York Islanders. Guerin’s contributions that year are immeasurable, and it wasn’t by chance that Guerin was the first player Sidney Crosby passed the Stanley Cup to after winning it in Detroit.
The Penguins haven’t been able to replace Guerin’s presence in the dressing room, and for a team that tends to struggle when faced with adversity, a steady veteran presence could mean the world. Brenden Morrow could be that guy.
Why the Penguins will get him: Dallas is ready to move on. Brenden Morrow is a lame duck captain in Dallas; their future lies with Jamie Benn. They have a serviceable amount of top forwards in Benn, Jagr, Whitney, Roy, Ryder, and Eriksson, and with Morrow hitting free agency this summer, there could be incentive to get something for him before he walks away, like they forgot to do with Brad Richards. Trading Morrow would signify the beginning of a new era for the Dallas Stars, one that the organization is very excited for.
From the Penguins perspective, Morrow brings everything. He’s a good, physical forechecker who can pot 25-30 goals in a full season. He can throw the body around and dig out a puck. He isn’t afraid to fight when he has to. As an NHL captain for a half-dozen years, he has the veteran leadership qualities the Penguins could really use when the going gets rough. With an expiring contract this summer, there’s no commitment required, much like when Shero acquired Bill Guerin. Guerin was a Cup-winning veteran of several teams, but Morrow has had a distinguished career without a Stanley Cup. The closest Morrow has been to the game’s greatest prize was in his rookie season, when the Stars lost to the New Jersey Devils in six games in the Stanley Cup Final. He’s seen the top of the mountain but hasn’t reached it himself.
There’s also a familiarity between the GMs. Both of them pulled the trigger on the Goligoski-Neal/Niskanen trade and earlier this season, Shero sent Carl Sneep to the Stars organization for the infamous “future considerations.” Both men are clearly comfortable dealing with each other, which is an underrated part of trade negotiations.
Why the Penguins won’t get him: The Dallas Stars currently sit in playoff position. Winning teams don’t tend to trade away their captains, so it would take some hard times in Dallas to see Morrow become available. If the Stars are out of the playoff race before the trade deadline, I would think this is already a done deal. Unfortunately for the Penguins, the Stars are a better hockey team than that. They’ll probably stay around that playoff bubble all season and Brenden Morrow likely won’t be available until July (when I would happily revisit the idea of bringing him in).
Two things working against Morrow as a player are his skating ability and his health. He’s not exactly fleet-of-foot anymore and he’s been limited the past few seasons with concussion issues, and at age 34 his health is a legitimate concern. Still, if he came as a cheap rental it would be worth the risk. But therein lies the problem: he would have to come cheap.
If the Stars are out of the race, you can bet GMs around the league will be calling about the status of Brenden Morrow by the trade deadline (Jaromir Jagr too, but I have a hard time seeing the Penguins aggressively pursuing him again). If there are a lot of teams interested, the price tag will go up. It will take more to get Morrow out of Dallas than the bag of pucks Shero sent to New York for Billy Guerin. There’s also the matter of Morrow’s no-trade clause, so he would only come to Pittsburgh if he wanted to.
I’m obviously a Brenden Morrow fan and I would love to see this trade materialize. However, there’s just enough standing in the way that I doubt it will happen. It would solve the Penguins’ very tangible hole in their top-6 and it might be the kind of locker room jump-start that playoff runs are built on. If Morrow could be had for some prospect (say, Philip Samuelsson or Tom Kuhnhackl) and a 2nd or 3rd round pick (which is probably halfway between the costs for Bill Guerin and, say, Jarome Iginla) then I know I’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s all a moot point if the Stars keep themselves in playoff position, but imagining Brenden Morrow in a Penguins jersey gets me excited. How about you?
Brian is on Twitter, @BlitzburghBrian