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Ducks Sign Brendan Morrison

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
Brendan Morrison has scored 50-plus points in six of his last seven NHL campaigns. The center agreed to a one-year contract with the Ducks on Tuesday.

The Anaheim Ducks announced on Tuesday that they have signed center Brendan Morrison to a one-year contract. Per club policy, no financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

“Brendan Morrison is a solid veteran with excellent foot speed,” said Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Brian Burke. “He’s an intelligent hockey player and is a tremendous addition to our top six forward group.”

Morrison, 32 (8/15/75), appeared in 39 contests with the Vancouver Canucks in 2007-08, collecting 9-16=25 points with 18 penalty minutes (PIM). He was sidelined for 43 games due to wrist and knee injuries. Morrison has played in all 82 regular season contests in six of the last seven NHL campaigns, appearing in 542 consecutive games from 2000 to 2007. He was the active NHL “Iron Man” up until Dec. 10, 2007 when he missed 38 games with a wrist injury. In addition, Morrison became the all-time Canucks “Iron Man” on Feb. 22, 2007 at Los Angeles, setting a new record with 483 consecutive games played with Vancouver.

A native of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, Morrison has appeared in 674 career NHL contests, registering 159-315=474 points with 352 PIM. He played in his first full NHL season with New Jersey in 1998-99, finishing second among league rookies in both assists and points. The 5-11, 181-pound center established career highs in goals (25), assists (46) and points (71) during the 2002-03 season. A lifetime plus-52 player, Morrison has earned a plus-rating in seven of his 11 NHL seasons. He was among the Canucks top-four scorers in five of the last seven seasons. In 53 career postseason contests, Morrison has earned 8-20=28 points with 38 PIM, reaching the Western Conference Semifinals with the Canucks in 2003 and 2007.

A collegiate standout, Morrison attended the University of Michigan for four seasons, winning the NCAA Championship with the Wolverines in 1996, while also being named the Championship Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He is a three-time Hobey Baker finalist, winning the award as the top collegiate hockey player for the 1996-97 season. Morrison also earned the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s (CCHA) Player of the Year award for the 1996-97 season.

Morrison was originally selected by New Jersey in the second round (39th overall) of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.  He was acquired by Vancouver with Denis Pederson from New Jersey in exchange for Alexander Mogilny on March 14, 2000.

Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Burke spoke to reporters Tuesday morning via conference call. Following is a transcript:

We have signed Brendan Morrison to a one-year contract. From our perspective, this fills a void in our lineup that has existed since we moved Andy McDonald. What I think Brendan Morrison brings to our group is a high hockey IQ, good foot speed and he’s a good teammate. He’s very well-liked by his teammates. He works hard. From my perspective, it’s a significant signing for us and I’m very happy to welcome him to Anaheim. I want to mention that I think Dave Nonis’ presence here was instrumental in getting this deal done. I know Brendan Morrison has had a prior relationship with me, Bob Murray and with Dave Nonis. I think Dave Nonis being involved was a significant part in Brendan’s decision. He’s a Duck player. He plays my style of hockey: up-tempo, puck pressure, puck movement.

On Morrison’s rehab from a knee injury,
We’ve looked at some medical reports. We believe he’ll be ready for training camp, but if he’s not, he’ll be ready for the season. He has to pass a physical like every free agent player, so we’re not worried about this. He’s been a very durable player through his career until the last 12 months.

On the expectations of Morrison,
Well, we have to see who we get to play with him. We’re not sure what Teemu’s going to do or what our other alternatives are. If you look at our top six forwards right now plugging him in, you’d have Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, and then you’d have Bobby Ryan, Brendan Morrison and a question mark. So, I think it would be pretty early to make any bold projections or predictions about what he might do until we see who we get him to ride shotgun with.

On what he thinks lured Morrison to the Ducks,
I think as a veteran player like Brendan, who’s a made a good living at this game, is trying to achieve something, trying to win something and play the game the way he likes to play it. Randy’s style is Brendan’s style where we emphasize speed, puck pressure and puck movement. I think a combination of all those things. We think playing for the Samuelis is a draw. We think playing in Orange County is a draw. We think that what we offer players here is a great, electric building and a wonderful lifestyle. I think it’s all those things. My sense is that Dave Nonis’ involvement was crucial.

On Morrison taking a one-year deal with the Ducks, as opposed to any other offers,
I think it says volumes for the player’s desire to come here. I think it’s a combination that he’s confident that he’ll have rehabbed the injury completely by the time he gets here and confidence in our ability that we’ll be in the hunt. I think it speaks volumes, again, that he wants to play here.

On Bobby Ryan being a top six forward,
He had a great playoff. He was a dominating player in the American League. They played three rounds down there. The couple of games I went to that’s all people could talk to me about on other teams. You’re at an American League playoff game and here there are three, four, five or six pro scouts, GMs and Assistant GMs and they run after me after the game and say ‘Boy, is he coming.’ I think he’s earned the right to be penciled in there. I know our coach doesn’t write anyone’s names anywhere in ink, so I know better than that. I think he’s penciled in there and that’s where he’s going to start.

On still having to make moves with the team’s defense and if getting a forward in return is possible,
Yes. It’s possible.

On Morrison’s speed being closer to Andy McDonald or Doug Weight,
He’s probably somewhere in the middle. Andy McDonald has great foot speed. He gave us that component. Brendan has excellent speed as well, maybe not in that afterburner category that Mac is in, but certainly an upgrade over what we have. He has definite speed and quickness.

On the Detroit Red Wings,
A year ago everyone was saying we had the best chance to repeat than any team has had in 10 years. Remember that? Everyone said this team is poised to repeat better than anybody. I’m not making this up. Lots of media experts said that. It’s hard to repeat. It certainly appears like all the experts, the people who commentate on this have all said, they have the best chance to repeat and they added Marian Hossa. I’ll leave prognostications and predictions to the experts. Certainly it’s a great team that added a great player. I’ve said this before and I’m not embarrassed to say it, I think Kenny Holland is a genius.

On Morrison’s leadership qualities,
I think leaders lead regardless of an insignia. I think in the military leaders lead, even if they haven’t achieved the rank they’re going to achieve. I think leaders lead and I think Brendan Morrison has leadership skills. Whether he has a letter on or not, I expect him to provide leadership. I expect that out of all veteran players. Brendan’s not a rah-rah guy. He’s a guy that does his job, works hard, practices hard, is a good father and a good teammate. I think he’ll be in our leadership group for sure.

On the alternatives if Teemu Selanne does not return,
We would look outside first. I’m not going to force a young kid into a situation he’s not ready for unless I absolutely have to. We would do an outside search.

Hours after officially becoming a member of the Anaheim Ducks, center Brenden Morrison also spoke with the media via conference call on Tuesday afternoon. Following is a transcript:

I’m extremely excited to be going to Anaheim. I think they have a team that’s going to contend for the Stanley Cup this year. I think it’s going to be an easy transition for the family moving down. But more than anything, I think it’s a great opportunity for me personally to step into a situation on a team that’s going to compete. It’s a great opportunity for me to go to a team that has a chance to win right now. I’m very excited about that. Speaking to Burkie and Dave Nonis, they said they were looking for a guy that could come in and fill that second line center void right now that they have and play an offensive role, a top six role, play on the PP and play on the PK. I think this is a good fit.

On his interest in the Ducks as a free agent,
They were a team that over the course of the season I had thought about and were high on the list if things didn’t work out in Vancouver. I think you always have to prepare to possibly not be back when you’re entering your free agent summer. They were definitely high on the list.

On other offers that came his way,

There were others deals out there that I turned down that were more lucrative. I’m not going to get into which teams offered what, but there was interest which is a positive, there’s no question. We went back to Vancouver and said we were close to making a decision; do you guys want to talk about getting something done? We were open to a bunch of different suggestions. They came back with a one-year offer that obviously we didn’t accept. It was unfortunate that it didn’t work out in Vancouver, but like I said earlier, I’m excited about going to Anaheim.

On turning down multi-year offers to come to Anaheim,
You know there were other deals that had a longer term, but the way I approach this is I still think there are some question marks, even though I had that long stretch with that “Iron Man” streak. I had a couple of injuries last season and only played half the season really, so I think that played a role a bit into some teams having question marks about me. I elected to take this one-year deal to come back and prove what type of player I still can be and to go to a team that I think has a good chance to win. At this stage of my career that’s what I want to do. I want to win. I think this is a good fit.

I know it’s risky or it potentially can be risky. There’s no question. I think the easy thing to do is just sign the multi-year deal and not really have to worry about anything. I think this puts a little bit of pressure on myself to come in and perform well. I’m embracing that challenge. I’m working hard to get back. I have a lot to prove to people. A lot of people think that with the way things have gone with my injuries, they don’t know if I can still play at a high level. I want to come back and prove that I can.

On when he thinks he’ll be ready to get back on the ice,
I think I’m right on schedule for camp. I intend to start skating here probably mid-August, which I would normally do. I don’t think I’m really behind schedule that way. I usually take about three months off from the end of the season before I skate anyways. That’s obviously extended a little bit here because I finished the season earlier than normal. I expect to skate in August. I foresee being ready for camp. From now until then, if I do have some type of setback, then that might change. I don’t foresee anything happening. I’m right on target right now.

On being reunited with Brian Burke and Dave Nonis,
I’ve been with those guys, Burke and Dave combined, for eight years. Obviously, Brian left a couple of years ago. Those are the guys that brought me into Vancouver from New Jersey back in 2000 and really gave me a tremendous opportunity to come into a good situation with a young core group of guys and play. They just let me play and played me in a bunch of different roles. I think it really helped me become the player that I am because of the opportunity there. I’m very appreciative for that chance. I talked to these guys right on Day 1 and they said they were looking for that second line center to come in, provide some offense and fill that void. I’m ecstatic.

On his time in Vancouver,
There are a lot of things that stick out in my mind in Vancouver, a lot of positives. Touching on one negative first, obviously we didn’t ever get a chance to play for the Cup. I think we had some tremendous teams there, but we never accomplished that. That’s the most disappointing thing. Positives are I got to play for a tremendous organization, a very passionate city and knowledgeable fans. Everybody treated me with the utmost respect. I have nothing but good things to say about the city of Vancouver. It’s my hometown and difficult to move, but sometimes you have to do these things in this profession. It was overall, a real positive experience.

On if his triple overtime goal in the 2004 playoffs is his most memorable moment in Vancouver,
I guess if you’re maybe pinpointing one specific moment or a goal that might have been one that definitely sticks out in my mind. It gave us an opportunity. In the big picture, it didn’t mean anything because we lost Game 7. We had some fun teams. Getting a chance to play with Markus (Naslund) and Todd (Bertuzzi) for a couple years, having some real productive years, playing on a team that I think was pretty scary to play against with the amount of weapons that we had and the offense that we had was a real fun time. Those things definitely stick out in my mind.

On playing on the Ducks’ second line as opposed to the top line he mostly played in Vancouver,
I think the last couple of years here, Daniel and Henrik (Sedin) have that matchup in Vancouver with the other team’s top pairing. For probably five years there, with the guys I was playing with, we matched up with the other team’s top defensive pairing and checking line. It’s what you make of it. Coming into to Anaheim, with Getzlaf centering the top line there and getting a lot of attention, if I can come in and just complement those guys, distribute the puck and finish when I have the opportunity then I think we have the makings of having a good, solid team with a lot of depth.

On having any hint of which forwards he will play with in Anaheim,
No, I don’t. I think Getzlaf and Perry are pretty much set. They rotated Kunitz in there a bit. Just going through their roster and knowing some of their offensive guys, maybe a young guy in Bobby Ryan. Hopefully, Teemu comes back. That would be a huge thrill to get a chance to play with him. There are several options I guess.

On he, Naslund and Bertuzzi each having moved on from
When it actually happens, when you move on, that’s the time when you reflect a little bit. When you’re there still and in the moment, you don’t really think about it all that much. Now that we’ve all gone on our separate ways, you do think back and think of how things were rolling when we were playing together, playing well and the feeling you had. It was very fun and exciting. Again, we’ll look back with disappointment that we never really accomplished anything with it as far as the playoffs go. That’s the one downside to it. The positive is it was a lot of fun playing hockey that style. When you’re an offensive guy, when you go out every single night and you think you can score almost every shift with your line, the game is a lot of fun.

On what his kids thought about coming to the home of Disneyland,
I think that is going to check one road trip off our list. We planned on doing it at some point here, but we told them that we might even be able to get season passes now, so they were pretty ecstatic about that.

On the risk versus reward of signing a one-year deal with the Ducks,

I’m a pretty conservative guy. I’m not very risky at all. I’m maybe getting out of my comfort zone a little bit here, but I think at this time in my career this is the right move for me. I really think that this team has a good chance to win it all. I think I can add something there. That is what it boiled down to.

On the Ducks’ style of play,

I think what they bring to the table is they’re very multi-dimensional. They have a team that can play a skilled game. They have a lot of gifted guys up front and on the back end. They also have an element to the game where they can be a very difficult team to play against as far as physicality. They have some guys that finish their checks and are really hard to play against. I know from time just being in Vancouver, they were a difficult team to play against. They are solid in net. They play different ways. They can beat you by scoring goals and they can also beat you by wearing you down, grinding on you and beating you by playing good defensively. That was definitely something that was attractive to me.

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