The Penguins are already a Stanley Cup contender this season. And they just strengthened their chances of raising the holy chalice.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero traded for Dallas forward Brenden Morrow and a third-round pick in exchange for defensive prospect Joe Morrow and a fifth-round selection Sunday.
This deal makes sense for both teams, especially the Penguins. And Shero deserves credit for making it happen.
The Penguins get a player that fills a specific need. With Brenden, 34, Pittsburgh adds a power forward that can score, plays physical, is a net-front presence and has veteran leadership.
“The way he plays the game is something we wanted to try to add. It’s something we identified,” Shero said.
Brenden, a two-time 30-goal scorer, would be a perfect fit alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (if that is where he ends up being slotted). Brenden plays a similar style to Chris Kunitz, and the newly acquired left winger could give that line a physical and aggressive presence that it has lacked since Kunitz was moved to play with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis.
Brenden could also bolster the team’s third line. That line’s main duty is a defensive-checking assignment. Their top priority in Dan Bylsma’s system is getting offensive zone time. Brenden’s strength and physical power would help in that regard, and also his scoring touch could make the line a two-way threat.
“I would see him playing in the top-9,” Shero said. “Whether he goes with Malkin and Neal or Brandon (Sutter) and somebody else remains to be seen. Hopefully, he’ll be a good addition for us. Not a savior, but a complimentary piece that can add to our group.”
Plus, Brenden will be an older presence in the locker room. He has been the Stars captain for the past seven seasons. Brenden a player that has done and seen everything, and is coming to Pittsburgh with one goal in mind: to win a Stanley Cup (see: Guerin, Bill; Roberts, Gary).
Brenden, who is in the final year of his contract, has a lot of miles on his tires. Playing his brand of hockey for 13 years is going to take a toll on the body. He was limited to just 57 games last season. However, Brenden has missed only two contests this year. And while his scoring is down right now, an adrenaline shot of playing with a contender may be just what he needs to find his game. A change of scenery was what Guerin and Roberts needed to rejuvenate their careers. The Penguins are hoping to get the same from Brenden.
The Penguins lose a strong prospect in Joe Morrow, their first-round pick in 2011. However, if you want to get something in this league, you’ve got to give something. And it’s best to deal from an area of strength to help a weakness. The Penguins’ system is stacked with defensive prospects, so it made sense to deal from this area.
Lastly, the reason to love this deal if you’re a Penguins fan is that it shows the team is serious about winning a championship. Shero saw that the team’s lineup lacked a strong, power forward type of player. So he went out and got one. Shero didn't wait around. He targeted his man and cut the deal.
Joe will likely develop into a solid NHL defenseman with a long career. However, the Penguins’ goal is to win a championship. In the salary cap era teams have such a small window to win, and when you’re close, you’ve got to go for it. Make whatever move will get you over the hump.
“Every year you’re seeing less and less players available at the deadline, thus the prices go up,” Shero said. “You have to decide as a team, if you’re buying, if you’re willing to pay them. If you’re not, you’re not going to get anybody.”
The Penguins have drafted a lot of defensemen the past few years. These blueliners become assets by either developing into NHL players, or as trade capital to improve the team for a Stanley Cup run. The Penguins are as good as any team in the NHL. Any deal that makes them better is worth the risk.
“That’s the nature of the job and the nature of our team right now,” Shero said. “We’re going to put a guy on our team to hopefully help us win. Joe Morrow will play in the league a long time. As a general manager it doesn’t make you feel great all the time, but we’re trying to win.”