(HockeyStL) -- The Blues announced the signing of free agent forward Brenden Morrow on Monday morning, a few days after subtracting 18 players from their roster. The team sent 18 players to the American Hockey League Wolves on Saturday evening with their first cuts of the preseason.
Despite still having 18 forwards on their roster, the Blues opted to bring in more depth on forward.
Morrow, 34, has been searching hard for a new contract this offseason, but drew little interest due to teams spending money more wisely this season with a lower cap ceiling.
“The most dangerous animals are wounded animals and he is a bit wounded right now in the sense that he felt he would demand a longer contract at a higher dollar value,” said general manager Doug Armstrong in an interview posted on the Blues website. “He’s a very motivated person and a great competitor.”
The Blues showed interest in Morrow in July, which is the first time the sides came together to discuss the options. But at the time, the Blues still had key free agents to re-sign, including defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, and the team was unsure about where they would stand financially after those signings.
“He and I talked in July,” said Armstrong. “He was understanding that our main focus at that point was getting Alex re-signed. Once we got Alex signed, I knew where our roster was and where our finances were at and we re-engaged.”
The two sides came together again during one of the Blues’ preseason games. They had a long conversation, and invited Morrow to St. Louis to see the team practice, meet the coaching staff, etc. The meeting went well and the Blues offered Morrow a contract. Morrow accepted the offer on Sunday evening.
Morrow’s contract with the Blues is a one-year, $1.5 million deal. The veteran forward is coming off of a six-year, $24.6 million contract, which he signed with Dallas in 2007. Morrow has had seven seasons with 40-plus points in his 13-year National Hockey League career. His most impressive season was 2007-08 when the forward posted 74 points (32 goals, 42 assists). Last year, Morrow was traded at the trade deadline to Pittsburgh. After the trade, Morrow had 14 points in 15 games, showing that he still has something left.
“He’s a competitive player,” said Armstrong. “He has played in the Stanley Cup final; he’s played in the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Last year he went to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline and played very well there. He hurt his knee-cap pretty severely and played through it. That is the type of player we want.”
Besides battling a knee-cap problem last year, Morrow also has had back and neck problems in his career. His injury history likely scared teams away, but not the Blues, who feel Morrow instantly makes their team better.
“He just makes us a better team,” Armstrong said. “You list our group of forwards and you put his name in there and he goes up far enough in that listing to say the team is better with him in the lineup.”
The biggest question raised with the addition of Morrow is what do the Blues do with the logjam at the forward position?
The Blues, despite having 18 forwards currently on roster, essentially have 15 forwards battling for 14, or fewer, spots. The team will have to get its roster size down to 23 by Sept. 30, and will have a maximum of 14 forwards on roster at that time. Either Adam Cracknell or Chris Porter will likely be the odd man out when the roster size is decreased.
“We have a crowded forward group that will have to be thinned out here shortly,” admitted Armstrong.
The Blues could opt to make a trade, as sending either Cracknell or Porter to the AHL will still cost the Blues some cap room since both are on one-way deals. And the Blues are lurking dangerously close to the $64.3 million salary cap ceiling so every bit of money is important.
Right now, according to Capgeek.com, the Blues have about $849,167 in cap space remaining, leaving them little room to maneuver right now.
“We will be cap compliant by opening night,” guaranteed Armstrong. “We will still have room for call-ups if necessary.”
“It doesn’t leave a lot of (cap) room. It’s not like we did this and can’t bring a scorer in later. This was economically friendly for our franchise.”
But despite the potential cap issues, the Blues felt they had to move on what was a bargain deal. Armstrong wants to build his team now, rather than give up assets, such as draft picks, at the trade deadline, where players like Morrow will fetch a first-round pick, or a good prospect.
Morrow has 542 career points (249 goals, 293 assists) in 850 career games. Assuming he stays healthy, the veteran wants to prove that he isn’t done yet and he has shown he has the tools to do that.
Morrow will likely be fourth-line player for the Blues, but could see time on the third line as well. The addition makes for an interesting remainder of training camp, where the fight for a spot on the opening night roster just got a bit tougher.