Penguins Acquire Brenden Morrow
Well I won’t say I called it, but I will say that I thought it was a really good fit.
And Ray Shero agreed, shipping out defensive prospect Joe Morrow and a 5th-round pick for the Stars’ former captain and a 3rd.
First thing’s first: let’s say some words about Joe Morrow. Morrow is a promising young defenseman with a great shot, great skating ability, and above all else, a great head on his shoulders. He’s a good kid, and he has an NHL future ahead of him. But he was expendable for the Penguins. And he was expendable for a few (albeit speculative) reasons:
Morrow played run-and-gun hockey in Portland as a junior player and relied more on his natural talent than an actual system. That’s common of 18-year-old defensemen and shouldn’t serve as a knock on the kid. He was working in Wilkes-Barre to basically re-learn hockey and mold himself into a player who relied on his system and his teammates instead of his own natural ability. He may have been more of a long-term project than the organization really wanted him to be, and they decided to move him.
The Penguins already have several Joe Morrows. His former Winterhawk teammate, Derrick Pouliot, also plays a great-skating offensive game reminiscent of Kris Letang. Olli Maatta projects as a solid two-way defender. Wilkes-Barre is already developing Brian Dumoulin. When you stockpile these defensemen, as Shero has, it gives you options. Other GMs want that kind of player, and Shero almost always deals from a position of strength.
There wasn’t going to be any room in Wilkes-Barre. Currently on the Baby Penguins’ defense are the aforementioned Brian Dumoulin, captain Joey Mormina, Dylan Reese, Philip Samuelsson, Alex Grant, Cody Wild, and recently signed Clark Seymour. (Seymour’s junior season just ended and he joined the organization likely just to practice with the team). Pouliot and Maatta won’t turn pro next year, but Maatta’s teammate and London Knights captain Scott Harrington will, along with Cornell captain Nick D’Agostino. The Pens will have another logjam of defensive prospects and Morrow was deemed to be the odd man out.
I wish nothing but the best for Joe Morrow in Dallas. He’s an exciting player to watch and a great kid in the dressing room. His dynamic offensive ability will be much appreciated in Texas, while the Pens will be able to replace him.
As for the elder Morrow, Brenden brings everything to the Penguins that you want them to have for a playoff run. Gritty veteran? Check. Leadership? Check. Hungry for a Stanley Cup? Check. Chemistry with anyone on the team? Well, we’ll hold off on that, but he played with James Neal and Matt Niskanen a few short seasons ago. Check that link at the top of the post for some more detailed scouting on the guy. Suffice it to say, Pens fans are going to love this guy.
If you’re concerned about his skating ability, which has diminished in recent years, recall that Evgeni Malkin won the Art Ross and Conn Smythe skating with Ruslan Fedotenko and had a great year before that with Ryan Malone. Not everything is about speed, and while Bylsma-type forwards need speed, Malkin-type forwards can get away with some heavier boots. The difference in styles creates adjustment and matchup problems for opposing teams, which we all know can make the difference in a seven-game series.
A few extra thoughts:
-Despres has a slam-dunk spot on this roster (as well he should). If there were any inkling of Despres not being a part of the Pens’ core going forward, they wouldn’t trade Morrow.
-We don’t know what Kris Letang’s contract demands will be this summer, but Shero probably does. Reading between the lines here, if Shero is willing to let Morrow go, perhaps he’s more confident than I am that Letang can be re-signed.
-There was a lot of reference to a Rossi tweet a few weeks ago claiming that the Penguins said Morrow was untouchable. What are the odds the Pens leaked that to Rossi to make him seem like a more valuable prospect than he is?
-Ray Shero just went all-in on this season. He loves Joe Morrow, but traded him for a rental. Shero wants to win the Stanley Cup again. And he wants to do it this year.
-Kunitz, Neal, Morrow… Shero certainly likes power forwards from the Pacific Division. You can almost put money on him signing Ryane Clowe this summer.
I’m on Twitter, @BlitzburghBrian.