The Pittsburgh Penguins have a history of adding veterans with experience and an edge to their game to shore up their lineup as they head into the playoffs. Gary Roberts arrived in 2007, Bill Guerin joined and was part of the Stanley Cup team in 2009 – and now, in 2013, Penguins GM Ray Shero hopes he’s found that same kind of addition in forward Brenden Morrow.
Sunday, the Penguins acquired the 34-year-old Dallas Stars captain, along with a third-round 2013 draft pick, but the addition came at a steep cost in 20-year-old defenseman Joe Morrow, Pittsburgh’s first-round draft pick in 2011 who was considered by many to be their top prospect, and a fifth-round 2013 draft pick.
“I was looking to add a forward like a Brenden Morrow,” Shero said. “A playoff-proven guy, played on the 2010 [Canadian Olympic] gold medal team, he’s familiar with a number of the players here. The way he plays the game is something we identified [as] something wanted to try to add.
“And certainly, at this time of year, you’re talking about the demand versus the supply. There’s a limited number of [those types of] players, and that’s where you lead into a good prospect like a Joe Morrow.”
Shero admitted he lost sleep Saturday night thinking about trading a prospect of Joe Morrow’s caliber, but that the Penguins had the luxury of dealing from a position of depth.
“It’s tough, but that’s the decision you have to make when you’re trying to add a certain thing,” Shero said. “I don’t set the prices, it’s the team that’s got the player, and I have to decide if we’re going to pay them.
“He’s a good prospect, a real good player. He will play for a long time in the National Hockey League. But it’s a position of strength for our team. Everyone knows we’ve drafted a number of quality defensemen, and, in terms of what we’re trying to do here, that was an area that we had to trade.”
Brenden Morrow is expected to arrive in Pittsburgh Monday and is likely to be paired with Evgeni Malkin and former Dallas teammate James Neal on the team’s second line.
“I always leave that up to [head coach] Dan [Bylsma] and his staff, but I would see him playing in the top nine,” Shero said. “He’s a guy that would probably play on our second power play [unit]. He’s a real good net-front presence. [He has] the competitive spirit we’re looking for, that physical nature of his game, and he is a guy who goes to those dirty areas. When you get to the playoffs, that’s an important aspect of what we’re trying to do.”
Brenden Morrow was approached Saturday about waiving his no-trade clause to come to Pittsburgh, spoke to his family and, by Sunday, was ready to leave Dallas, his home of 13 years and the only NHL team he’s ever played for.
“He came to Dallas the year after they won the Cup, so he’s a guy who’s looking for his first one,” Shero said. “When I talked to him this afternoon, [I told him] if you come here, we have a good team, but there’s a lot of good teams in the Eastern Conference, and hopefully he’s going to be a good addition for us. Not a savior at all, but a complementary piece that can add to our group.”
For the Stars, meanwhile, who are struggling to hold on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference, the deal is a move for the future. Joe Morrow will report to the NHL club with a chance to make the team or be assigned to the American Hockey League, as he was with the Penguins organization.
“My goal in this has always been to try to keep an eye on the future and, with my respect for Brenden Morrow, to try to find him a situation, if at all, that makes sense for him,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk.
“I really believe we’ve accomplished two things here. We’ve added a young prospect our guys are really excited about; we have good knowledge of him from our ties in the Western Hockey League [and he’s] a potential top-four defenseman. Brenden has an opportunity to play playoff hockey with a good group of players in Pittsburgh; I think it will be real good for him as well.”