With the opening of training camp less half a month away, we thought it would be timely to look back at last year’s offseason additions. The Lightning acquired six players in 2014 before the start of the 2014-15 season: Jonathan Marchessault, Jason Garrison, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov and Brenden Morrow. Additionally, Braydon Coburn joined the Lightning late in a trade deadline deal that added depth and stability to the blue line. We’ll review the moves individually and analyze their impact on Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup Final playoff run.
Measurables: 5-foot-11, 212 pounds
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 11, 2014, to a one-year contract
What was said then: Tampa Bay was in search of a veteran, bottom six forward during free agency, someone who could provide toughness and leadership to a talented but young team. The Lightning found what they were looking for in Brenden Morrow and got him at a good price. Morrow hadn’t put in a full season since 2010-11 with Dallas, when he scored a career-high 33 goals and added 23 assists. He played 71 games on a one-year deal with St. Louis the season before coming to Tampa Bay and posted 25 points (13-12). The Lightning were hoping for similar production when they inked him for one year 11 days into the free agency period.
2014-15 stats: 3 goals, 5 assists (8 points) and minus-3 in 94 games (playoffs included)
2014-15 impact: Morrow wasn’t an offensive force, but he proved invaluable on the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run. Morrow came to Tampa Bay having tallied 20 or more goals in seven seasons and 50-plus points in three but had to assume a lower profile role with the Lightning, one that involved less scoring and more grinding.
He made the transition seamlessly.
The oldest player in the locker room by five years, Morrow brought energy and physicality to his position on the fourth line. Head coach Jon Cooper loved him for his grit. Morrow wasn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas in the corners or in front of the net to screen goalies, tip pucks or retrieve rebounds. He ranked sixth on the Lightning for hits (112) during the regular season despite averaging less than 10 minutes a game (9:20).
Morrow was a warrior and a team-first guy who brought a calming influence to the Bolts. Morrow was never going to be a player to garner headlines anymore, but his attention-to-detail game ensured others on the Lightning would. With the majority of Lightning forwards 24 years old or younger, Morrow, an Olympic gold medalist, proved to be a more than capable mentor and locker room leader.
Morrow’s ice time dwindled as the playoffs progressed, his shifts coming less frequently as the Lightning opted to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for parts of the postseason. But the 15-year NHL veteran served as a reminder to his young teammates the difficulties in winning the Stanley Cup. In his rookie year with Dallas, the Stars made it to the Cup Final. Although he continued to play on talented teams throughout his career, Morrow had to wait 14 more seasons before returning to the Cup final and he still has yet to hoist the Cup.
2015-16 outlook: Morrow was not re-signed by the Lightning and is currently a free agent.