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Aftermath: Pens Add Morrow, Murray

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins general manager Ray Shero has been a busy man the past two days, pulling off two trades to acquire veteran forward Brenden Morrow and rugged defenseman Douglas Murray.

The Penguins made these deals with one goal in mind: winning a Stanley Cup. Morrow and Murray are the types of players that help you win in the postseason. Pittsburgh is certainly a stronger team having them on the roster.

Here is what you need to know about how the deals affect the team.

Douglas Murray and Brenden Morrow (Getty Images)
Brenden Morrow Media Availability 3.25
Ray Shero Media Availability 3.25
Ray Shero Media Availability 3.24
My Take: Pens Make Right Call on Morrow(s) Deal
Pens React to Morrow Acquisition
Pens Acquire Brenden Morrow
Pens Acquire Douglas Murray

The Pens added two players that will help them in the postseason: physical guys that will get their hands dirty (as well as a third-round pick in 2013).

Morrow is a strong, power forward that can work in the corners and in front of the net. He’s short and stocky (6-foot, 205 pounds), but a pain for defensemen to handle. He’ll outwork the opposition and create space for his linemates. Morrow can also finish. He scored a career-high 33 goals two seasons ago. He adds a lot of veteran leadership, considering he’s 34 years old and was Dallas’ captain for seven seasons. Morrow played only 57 games last year due to injury, but said he’s healthy and has “a lot left in the tank.” And coming to a new team that has a chance to win a Stanley Cup will certainly give him a new exuberance and drive on the ice.

Murray is a bruiser. He’s built like Ivan Drago at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. And he plays every bit to his strength. Murray will hit anything moves and certainly brings a physical edge to the game. Murray is a prototypical stay-at-home defenseman. He isn’t a swift skater, so you won’t see him jumping into a lot of rushes. Murray isn’t going to light up the scoresheet either, but that’s not his job. Murray’s job will be to clear the front of the crease in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, to punish opposition forwards in the defensive zone, to outmuscle players for loose pucks, to kill penalties, to be positionally sound and make the smart plays.

This is a question that will be answered by head coach Dan Bylsma and the coaching staff in the following days/weeks.

Morrow is a left wing and could be a perfect fit with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. His physical play could create space for his dynamic linemates. Plus, he’ll crash the net and look for any rebounds or dirty goals.

Morrow also could play on the third line with Brandon Sutter and either Matt Cooke or Tyler Kennedy. His physical style and ability to maintain offensive zone time would blend masterfully for Bylsma’s system – which requires the third line to maintain zone time as a counterattack to opposing team’s top scoring lines.

Amazingly the Pens added two NHL players without losing anyone from the current roster.

Joe Morrow

In all, Pittsburgh gave up one player (defensive prospect Joe Morrow) and three draft picks (2013 second round, 2013 fifth round and conditional 2014 second round).

Joe Morrow is a good prospect with a bright future in the NHL. It’s difficult to lose players of that caliber, but those are the tough moves you have to make to gain good assets. The Pens traded future potential for current results.

In the Morrow(s) trade, the Pens also swapped draft picks – gaining a third-rounder from Dallas in exchange for a fifth-rounder. Having that third-round pick made it easier for Shero to give up two second-round picks for Murray. So Shero had both deals in mind when he was working the levers of power.

Yes, it’s hard to lose a prospect like Joe Morrow and high draft picks. But at the end of the day, the Pens didn’t lose anyone from their current roster. All they did was strengthen it for a championship run.

With Malkin and Kris Letang both currently on Injured Reserve (both can be removed at any time), the Penguins are at the 23-man limit. But when one of those players becomes healthy, the team will have to make a move to stay at 23 (rosters can expand beyond 23 after April 3rd).

Simon Despres (Getty Images)

Since the Pens have added two pieces to the lineup without losing any pieces, it makes for an interesting fallout. If Morrow is placed with Malkin and Neal, where does Beau Bennett end up? Does he play on the third line? Does he go back to WBS? And if Morrow plays on the third line, does he take Cooke’s or Kennedy’s position? And if so, does that push Cooke/Kennedy to the fourth line? And with a completely healthy roster, where does Dustin Jeffrey end up?

On defense, the Pens now currently have nine blueliners. Considering that only six can play (sometimes seven), there is a logjam for a roster spot. Shero said he views Murray as a top-6 defenseman. The Penguins’ other top guys are Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Letang and Matt Niskanen. If Murray is in that mix, then that leaves one or two positions open with four guys in competition. From the sound of it, Shero would love to keep all nine once team rosters are allowed to expand beyond the 23-man limit on April 3rd.

One possible answer for the roster limit situation would be for the Pens to send Bennett and Simon Despres to WBS (since neither would have to clear waivers), then recall them following the April 3rd expansion. Otherwise they may lose a player like Robert Bortuzzo if they try sending him through waivers.

All these questions and more will be answered very soon.

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