Penguins trade for Dallas LW Brenden Morrow
Evgeni Malkin can ask James Neal about their new left winger.
Penguins Coach Dan Blysma said Sunday night that Brenden Morrow, acquired from the Dallas Stars before a 2-1 overtime home win over Philadelphia, is coming to Pittsburgh as part of a plan.
“Initially, I see him playing with Malkin and Neal,” Bylsma said.
Of course, Bylsma added that Morrow, a veteran of 13 seasons, all with the Stars, also could eventually play a third-line role for the Penguins.
Winners of 12 consecutive games, the Penguins (25-8-0, 50 points) lead the Eastern Conference with 15 games remaining on their schedule.
Morrow is joining the mix for a myriad of reasons.
General manager Ray Shero described him as a “complementary piece” to a nucleus that includes the NHL's highest scoring top line, anchored by captain Sidney Crosby; and Malkin, the MVP last season and a two-time scoring champion; Neal, a 40-goal man last season; defenseman Kris Letang, a Norris Trophy contender; and Marc-Andre Fleury, who leads the league with 17 victories.
Also, Shero said, Morrow is the guy “that goes to those dirty areas.”
“When you get to the playoffs, that's an important aspect of what we're trying to do,” Shero said.
The Penguins are trying to win the Stanley Cup, but they have lost to lower-seeded opponents every postseason since winning the championship in 2009.
Morrow has never won the Cup. His debut with the Stars came the year after their lone title, and they lost in the Final to cap that 2000 season.
“That keeps him hungry,” Neal said of Morrow, with whom he played before joining the Penguins in a February 2011 trade.
Added defenseman Matt Niskanen, also part of that 2011 deal: “(Morrow's) a character guy, a meat and potatoes player up and down. He's a heavy player, has a nose for the net.”
Crosby and Morrow were teammates for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
He agreed the Penguins' acquisition of Morrow signaled that Shero wants to “go for it.”
“Great acquisition, great leader,” Crosby said. “He's going to be tough for other teams to handle.”
Morrow is scheduled to join the Penguins on Monday. He waived a clause in his contract to join the club.
The Penguins can afford more moves before the April trade deadline. They can add four contracts before matching the Reserve List limit, 50, and the acquisition of Morrow left them with the ability to add about $20 million in cap space, though that number will prorate daily until the deadline.
The Penguins have failed to find consistent production from any player on the left side with Malkin and Neal. Chris Kunitz filled the role most of last season, but the NHL's second leading scorer has resumed playing with Crosby on the top line that also includes right winger Pascal Dupuis.
Bylsma said he surveyed Crosby, Neal and Niskanen to gauge how Morrow would fit into a dressing-room dynamic that is an intangible reason behind the club's success.
Messing with the top line — such as moving Dupuis off it — could have disrupted that dynamic, players said. Bylsma acknowledged that chemistry within the room was a talking point with Shero when discussion turned toward Morrow.
“You most definitely think where he fits, who goes where,” Bylsma said. “But we're adding a real character guy, a real grit guy.”
Also, the Penguins are adding a guy that is on the back end of his career.
Morrow, 34, has battled injuries the last two seasons. He missed two games this season because of a groin injury, and he missed 25 games last season because of reported back and neck issues.
To land Morrow and Dallas' third-round pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, Shero surrendered defensive prospect Joe Morrow and the Penguins' fifth-round pick.
Parting with Joe Morrow, who was selected 23rd overall at the 2011 Entry Draft, created a “ray of light” for other top prospects in the Penguins system, Shero said.
Morrow was considered the top prospect by management last summer, but his stock dropped during his first professional season with AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Derrick Pouliot (eighth overall) and Olli Maatta (22nd) were selected in the opening round at the 2012 Entry Draft and were held in higher regard than Morrow.
“He had his ups and downs,” Shero said of Joe Morrow, “but he is a good player and will play in the NHL for a long time.”