Yesterday I started a new series titled Buy or Sell. Over the next couple of weeks I will discussing the Stars’ options leading up to the NHL trade deadline. While yesterday’s post and a few others will look at which way the Stars should go in the market this season, tonight’s will be the first of five looking at specific players and what the options might be over the next three to four weeks.
By now most of you have seen the article that TSN’s Bob McKenzie published last week (if you haven’t, here it is). While easily dismissed by many Dallas Stars fans simply because they don’t want it to happen, there might be some fire behind this smoke. While Morrow has been a source of rumors in the past simply because many teams would want him, hearing someone as big as McKenzie saying that a lot of contenders are showing that they would be interested in acquiring him means that GM Joe Nieuwendyk will have some interesting conversations over the next month. Brenden Morrow is of course the current captain of the Stars and one of the few “big names” mentioned on the team when national media types think of the Dallas Stars. Morrow has been the captain since taking over from Mike Modano prior to the 2006-07 season when the team asked Modano to step down, and during his tenure the Stars have had some rough years. Now at 33 years-old, we could be witnessing the backside of Morrow’s captaincy and tenure in Dallas no matter what happens this season.
The team’s first round pick in 1997 has spent all of his NHL career in Dallas (12 seasons if you count the current one) and has constantly said that he loves being here and is planted firmly in Dallas. During his time in the organization he has been one of leaders during a period in which the team has seen some success, but has never lived up to the “glory years” of the franchise while the greats have moved on or retired. He was the branch over from the days of Modano, Sergei Zubov, Marty Turco, and many others. His rookie year was the 2nd of their back-to-back runs to the Stanley Cup Finals. But since then the team’s only deep run was the trip to the Western Finals in 2008, when Morrow carried the team and showed that he did have some real heart. With three straight years without playoff hockey and a fourth possible if the team doesn’t step it up in the second half of the season, things might be changed simply to continue the rebuilding process and bring back youth to go with young stars like Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, and Alex Goligoski.
The major issues here are very clear though. Morrow has a full no-trade clause and could easily shoot-down a trade if he doesn’t like the new team he would be heading toward or simply wants to stay in Dallas. It is foreseeable that Morrow would block a trade and not want to move from the only home that he has known during his adult career. But if GM Joe was offered a very strong deal that would help the Stars and give them great compensation, then I could also see Morrow understanding that Joe would not approach him unless the deal was a great one for the team and it sent Morrow to a strong contender.
Secondly, the Stars are still in the thick of things in the West. While they currently are on the outside looking in, they are only three points out of 8th and have played less games compared to many of the teams around them. With the roster finally looking healthy for the first time since October, the Stars are set to really show what they can do over the next few weeks. Moving the captain in the middle of a playoff race probably wouldn’t send a good message to the current roster moving forward. Trading a big name is one thing, moving the captain of your team is a whole different conversation when convincing other players to re-sign in Dallas or move down south to join the team. If the Stars were to move Morrow, they would have to either be in a rough spot or sitting down in 10th or lower when the deadline approaches.
But…….they could just as well move him. Morrow did score a career-high 33 goals last season and his value is probably at the highest it will be for the rest of his career. He only has one more season under his current contract after this season, and his $4.1 million salary is pretty manageable and attractive to teams looking to add a power forward that can play top-six minutes, score big goals, and provide physicality. With the franchise’s future looking brighter than their current state, moving Morrow could bring in a strong youngster plus possibly more. I could see teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks being very interested in him and both have good young pieces that the Stars should be interested. And if Joe really approached Brenden with a deal that would help the team and put him in a good spot, I doubt he would turn it down and fight it to stay for one more year and possibly cause a commotion. That is just not the type of player that he is.
You also have to take in Morrow’s current season. While he did look better in January when he did play signs are showing that all the miles are taking a toll. He has had multiple issues with his right knee, back, and neck over the last few seasons. And at 33, those issues could possibly get worse within in the next couple of years. Plus he could possibly be at close to 900 career NHL games played when his contract expires next summer ( June 2013). That number is higher than what quite a few NHL players ever reach and he would likely then be looking to sign another two-three year deal. While I don’t dare start predicting what the team will look like then or what the Stars would consider doing with Morrow, it is apparently clear that this is probably the last time his value will be this high.
So while I think it is unlikely that he will be “sold” to another team leading up to the deadline or on February 27th, I don’t think the Stars can shut the door and completely say no. After last season when the Stars were collapsing but held onto Brad Richards, I think Joe would be more open to listen to offers if the Stars are not in a strong position come the weekend before the deadline. And while Brenden Morrow has always belong in Stars’ black and gold (and green at times), it definitely could be time for the Stars to start thinking about life might be like without him. But someone will have to make the offer worth Joe’s trouble and I wouldn’t want to be in that room if he ever has to tell Morrow that he has been dealt.