The Vancouver Canucks have released centre Brendan Morrison from his tryout contract with the team, meaning that the NHL veteran is now free to sign with any team he chooses. Already, his agent has stated that two Eastern Conference teams and one Western Conference team have expressed an interest in the versatile forward, and the rumour mill suggests Calgary as a likely destination.
Head coach Alain Vigneault suggested that Morrison just wasn’t an ideal fit for a fourth line job:
“After we evaluated everything Brendan brings to the table and what we have here, we just thought it would be better for us to go in a different direction. Younger players, bigger size and they bring something than Brendan doesn’t. They give us a bigger and grittier line. But I’m confident he’ll be able to find a job somewhere in the league.”
I’m surprised the Canucks made the decision they did, given that the wingers on the fourth line (likely a rotation between Tanner Glass, Guillaume Desbiens and Rick Rypien) are all hard-edged physical players, and that Morrison could have brought some skill to that group. However, Vigneault’s Canuck teams have always held true to the grinder-style fourth line, so this isn’t exactly a deviation from form. It does make one wonder why Morrison was invited to training camp, given that the top three spots at centre ice are held by high-paid veterans (in order: Sedin, Kesler and Malhotra); if his skill-set was viewed as a poor fit for the fourth-line role it’s difficult to see where else he could have slotted in.
Still, this decision isn’t the end of the world for either party. The Canucks have done a lot to solidify an ugly bottom-six group from last year by bringing in Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres (though Torres may start the season higher up the depth chart given the injury to Alex Burrows). They also still have Peter Schaefer in camp on a tryout deal, and Cody Hodgson should help as well if he doesn’t start the season in the AHL.
For Morrison, there are obviously interested teams, and he’d probably have a better chance at a top-nine role with another club anyway. His 34 even-strength points from last season (that’s one more than Jason Spezza) show a player who could still help on a scoring line, and represent a nice recovery from a mostly lost 2008-09 season.
It’s a shame things didn’t work out, given Morrison’s rich history with the Canucks, but this may be a decision that works out in the player’s favour.