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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Morrison on Columbus UFA Radar


UFA speculation is really starting to pick up steam now. The latest Columbus UFA rumor is that the CBJ brass are very much interested in Vancouver center Brendan Morrison. From the National Post:

The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to make a play Tuesday for unrestricted free agent centre Brendan Morrison, The Vancouver Province has learned.

Although they acquired R.J. Umberger at the NHL entry draft, the Blue Jackets see Morrison as a better playmaking fit to work with big winger Rick Nash and also balance out their top two lines. That projection, coupled with the Vancouver Canucks not offering term or money in an extension, means Morrison will likely end his Canucks' career with 393 points in 543 games - unless there is a change in franchise focus.

Morrison earned US$3.2-million last season, but a March 26 knee injury ended his season and surgery was expected to affect his value on the open market. Morrison has had three surgeries (knee, sports hernia, hip) in the last two years, but that has not scared off the Jackets or other expected suitors.

The Jackets are rumoured to be offering a three-year deal at about US$8-million and have only US$25-million committed to 2008-09 salaries under the new US$56.7-million cap ceiling.


Would be very hard to argue with a Morrison acquisition at 3 years for 8 million. That would only be 2.6 mil per.

Morrison at age 32 certainly isn't the #1 center option we would all live to add *but* those just aren't avaiable. What Morrison is is a good second line guy who can run the point on the PP, PK, has decent wheels and can play make and score.

Morrison would not come without question marks. Of course the obvious is the injury history. Last year Morrison missed 38 games with a wrist injury and then the final 4 games the year with a torn ACL. He's also had those 3 surguries as the article mentions. Ouch.

Is his body giving out? A valid question.

What's interesting is that Puck-rakers has reported the following about Morrison's injury history:

Doctors have sent an email to select clubs informing them that Morrison will be 100 percent by the start of training camp.

With an obvious gaping hole still apparent up the middle it makes complete sense that the Jackets would target him in free agency. No he's not the Marleau or Vermette everyone would like...he's not a savior....but he's a very competent NHLer who could really help solidfy the middle of the ice for the Jackets. He certainly has his flaws but he's competitive, still has some good years left in the tank assuming he can stay healthy and wouldn't break the bank.

There is no doubt the Jackets will have to do the 'center by committee' thing again but by adding Morrison gives the team a lot more options down the middle. Competing for the top 2 spots would be RJ Umberger, Brendan Morrison and Derick Brassard. Not great but certainly not nearly as bad as it was last year when it was Fedorov-Peca-Novonty-Malhotra up the middle.
If Brassard comes into camp and just plays lights out you have a guy like Umberger who is very versitile and could slide to wing or someone slides to the 3rd line hole.

I also think Morrison may be a better fit for Nash but that's what camps for.

Here is a montage I found of Morrison off of youtube for those unfamiliar with his style of play:



Even with the injury questions marks, given what's available on the market, Morrison is worth the risk and now doubt Howson makes a push.

The Dispatch has a nice spread this morning on the free agenty frenzy and the Jackets are, as expected, to push hard for defensive upgrades. Scott Howson:

"There's going to be significant money spent on the blue line," Howson said. "That's our biggest issue right now."

Now that means puck-moving d-men right? I mean last I checked our defense was horrible about moving the puck out of our own zone and even worse generating chances at even strength and on the PP. That's a given right?

Not so fast according to the Dispatch beats:

The Blue Jackets also want a big, nasty, shut-down defenseman who will make them harder to play against. Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik and Ottawa's Mike Commodore would fit the bill.

Look I like Orpik and Commodore but don't we have plenty of shutdown d-men already in the lineup or verge of the lineup with the likes of Hejda, Klesla, Rome, Tollefsen and Methot?

What this team needs is a major shot of skill on the blueline. The only real offensive oriented guy assuming Hainsey is history is Kris Russell and I don't think one addition in that area is enough.

Now if come July 1st or after and we hear the news that the Jackets have signed Orpik or Commodore then perhaps that is just one step. You can never have enough good defensemen and that could also make a one or two existing d-men - say a Klelsa or Tollefsen for instance - expendible.

UFA only 2 days away!

-LTL

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

No, we don't have an over abundance of shut down d men. If we had them, our goals against would be much better. Methot, Rome, etc, are not the answer! We need a major upgrade. The above are 5-6 d men, not top 4. If they were top four d men, wouldn't Howson then be able to make a trade for the center we all desire?

wizworm said...

I won't be complaining if Morrison is signed. Like you mentioned, he's not the 1st line center we need but he's an upgrade over what we currently have.

As for D, I agree with what you said in your blog. Our biggest need is a couple offensive D-man who can move the puck. We may not have that shut down D but we need a couple puck movers more.

I still think Kubina would be a great addition but it looks like the Leafs are going to hang on to him. He was behind McCabe and Kaberle on the PP and 5-on-5 the last few years but showed when he gets ice time (like when McCabe was injuried) he can put up points. He's a great two way player who can make that first pass but also won't hurt you defensively.

Tom said...

Only question about our #1-to-be center should be "Can he dish it off to Nash?" Everything else is gravy.

LTL said...

Our goals against were 8th best in the league at 2.56 per game.

Our goals for was 29th in the league at 2.32.

Yes we need top 4 d-men but not more Klesla's and Hejda's. We need puck movers and can contribute offensively.

-LTL