Sunday afternoon, hockey insiders reported that the Dallas Stars were close to moving their captain, forward Brenden Morrow to one of two teams: The Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fans and analysts waited with baited breath for the decision to come down before, finally, Aaron Ward of TSN announced the Pens as the winners of Morrow’s services.
Brendan Morrow waives his NTC to go to Pitt #TSN
— Aaron Ward (@NHL_AaronWard) March 24, 2013
Yet, in losing, Boston couldn’t be luckier.
Sure, Morrow’s a veteran who oozes experience and compete. Sure, his career 243 goals and 528 points would look nice squeezed into a Bruins roster desperate for depth scoring. Sure, the Bruins could stand to add Morrow’s career averages (24 goals and 52 points per 82 games) and power-forward grit into their slumping lineup.
But at what cost? AT WHAT COST?!
In their completed deal, Pittsburgh sent top-prospect and defenseman Joe Morrow and a third-round pick for the now-former Dallas captain and a fifth-round pick. The younger Mr. Morrow’s struggles in the AHL dampened some projections but to many observers, he was still a top-50 prospect in the game (and I would argue a top-ten blueline property).
The B’s speculated compensation was in the same stratosphere. According to CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty, the Boston Bruins offered forward Alex Khokhlachev and a second-round pick for Morrow. From my upcoming B’s prospect update:
“Khokhlachev pushed the pace back in the OHL, tallying 22 goals and 48 points in 29 games and helping the Spits make an unsuccessful but spirited run at a postseason berth. He even revived linemate and top ’13 prospect Kerby Rychel’s game…He’s not NHL-ready like Ryan Spooner, but his offensive ceiling is a step higher. If he sees a smooth transition to the North American pro game in Providence, he’ll have the inside track on the top spot come this summer.”
Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman ranked ‘Koko’ thirty-third amongst all NHL prospects in his midseason update in January (before he went on that nasty tear with Windsor), saying:
“He is a very gifted puck handler and passer who has added an extra skating gear to his arsenal, which makes him more desirable as a smaller player.”
Toss-in the second-rounder and Dallas’ haul borders on the obscene.
This isn’t the same Brenden Morrow that combined nigh-on point-per-game scoring with grit and physicality. This edition has scored less than a half a point-per-game over his last season-plus and seen his shots-attempted go down significantly. He’s still a great shooter, but on the Bruins he wouldn’t earn more than a third-line role.
Certainly his finishing and toughness would be appreciated, but at this stage of his career he’s hardly a major ‘get’. Despite the Bruins offensive inconsistencies, Morrow would scarcely rate as a top-six forward in Boston’s lineup.
Additionally, with his contract expiring this summer, the Bruins would get eighteen games (and however many postseason matches). Even optimistically, Morrow might only account for six more goals and double that in points with his new squad. Is that enough value for one of the B’s three best farmhands plus an early pick?
No. It isn’t.
Boston needs a kick in the pants. Without question the Bruins haven’t been playing to their potential despite their 20-7-3 record and elite shot-differential metric. Getting their power-forward duo of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on-track (and their wounded healthy) might be enough. Getting a true top-six player like Jarome Iginla wouldn’t hurt, either.
Paying through the nose for rental depth scoring (no matter the intangibles that accompany it) isn’t the answer.
Of course, Morrow could turn around, rejuvenated and go on a tear riding the wing of one of Pittsburgh’s elite centermen. He could help the Juggernaut of the East bust back into the Cup Finals. Joe Morrow and/or Khokhlachev could wind-up as duds. But, for now, as Pronman stated in his post-trade analysis: “[Dallas] got the most value in this deal, putting themselves another step forward in the right direction for their franchise.”
Boston Bruins fans should feel fortunate that Morrow – and the deal with Dallas – passed them by.
Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand
Bob is a Boston Bruins Correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He lives in the Boston Metro Area with his wife, Amanda and their five-year-old son, Cormac.