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Caps add free agent center Morrison

Friday, 07.10.2009 / 7:39 PM / 2009 NHL Offseason News

By Brian Hunter - Staff Writer

A series of injuries slowed Brendan Morrison's production over the past two seasons, but the veteran center said Friday he's fully healthy and believes there's a lot of life left in his career.

The Washington Capitals are hopeful of the same, and signed Morrison to a one-year contract -- the financial terms of which were not disclosed -- conceivably to fill the role of second-line center after Sergei Fedorov went back to Russia.

"I sure hope so -- in the initial talks we had that's what we've discussed," Morrison said during a conference call, sounding excited about the thought of playing on a line with sniper Alexander Semin. "Obviously I know nothing is guaranteed and they don't just hand out positions, but if I can get my game back then that's the role I hope to play.

"This is a team I wanted to be a part of -- I feel like they're right on the cusp of some real good playoff success."

Morrison, who will turn 34 on Aug. 15, split last season with Anaheim and Dallas, combining for 16 goals and 31 points in 81 games. Prior to that he spent more than seven seasons in Vancouver, registering career highs of 25 goals, 46 assists and 71 points for the Canucks during the 2002-03 season.

Morrison scored over 50 points in each of his first six full seasons in Vancouver and at one point was an iron man, playing in 542 consecutive games. However, injuries to his wrist, knee and hip -- and the multiple surgeries that resulted -- took their toll the past couple years.

He played just 39 games in his final season with the Canucks, signed a free-agent deal with the Ducks and struggled early in Anaheim as he recovered from offseason surgery. After being traded to the Stars late in the season, Morrison began to rediscover his game.

"I think initially the opportunity was there in Anaheim, but I couldn't take advantage. I could barely get up and down the ice," Morrison said. "When you don't perform for a few games, they move on to the next guy.

"When I moved to Dallas I got a lot of minutes right away. That, coupled with the fact I felt a lot better physically, helped me get back to being an offensive threat."

Morrison was taken by New Jersey in the second round of the 1993 Entry Draft and made his NHL debut with the Devils during the 1997-98 season. He scored 23 goals in 131 games over parts of three seasons with the club before he was dealt to the Canucks as part of a package for Alexander Mogilny at the 2000 trade deadline.

In 755 career games, Morrison has 175 goals and 505 points. He's added eight goals and 28 points in 53 career playoff games.

Morrison said "a handful of teams" expressed interest in signing him, but none of them offered more than a one-year contract.

"To be frank, a one-year deal is the best option for me, too," he said. "I'm looking forward to a big year for me personally, and obviously for the team. The last couple seasons haven't been real productive for myself, but I've been productive in the past. I've got to get back on track, and I feel this is a perfect spot to do that."

A native of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, Morrison played college hockey at the University Michigan. While there, he was part of a national championship team in 1996 and won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation's top college player the following season. He also played for two years alongside Mike Knuble, who signed with the Capitals as a free agent on July 1.

"Mike and I are good friends. We played on the same line for two years at Michigan and we actually played together in Sweden the lockout year," Morrison said. "We're familiar with each other. I haven't spoken to him yet but I told him I was coming to Washington for a visit and he was excited about that."

Excitement was pervasive throughout Morrison's chat with the press Friday. After skating at far less than 100 percent for parts of the past several seasons, the momentum he felt he gained during his stint in Dallas has carried over into the summer. Morrison is confident he'll return to being an impact player in Washington.

"My legs didn't start coming around until the three-quarter mark of the season. Skating has always been an asset for me, and I was having trouble getting to places and challenging guys," he said. "When my legs started to come back I started to produce more.

"No doubts, I'm going to be back. I'm skating well and feeling strong. The last couple summers, because of the surgeries, I haven't been able to work out as I'm accustomed. I'm back now. I feel ready."

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