Word came down today that Darryl Sutter inked former Flame killer Brendan Morrison today to a one-year, $725,ooo contract. Morrison was recently released from a professional try-out with Vancouver and was suddenly a worthwhile option for a Calgary team that finished the pre-season with David Moss, Ales Kotalik, Matt Stajan and Daymond Langkow on the shelf.
At 35 years-old, Morrison is several seasons removed from his turn as the pivot of the dominant “West Coast Express” line featuring himself, Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. After peaking with a 25 goal, 71 point season in 2002-03, Morrison’s totals have steadily fallen over the years, obviously to the point where he was left fighting for employment until the very end of the off-season. And while he seemed to resurrect his career in Washington last year with 12 goals and 42 points in 74 games, the truth is his counting stats are more reflective of the offensively fecund environment in Washington last year rather than any sort of legitimate renaissance by the player himself. Morrison mostly played in the Capitals bottom six rotation against other similar role players. His zone start ratio was 54%, meaning he started more often in the offensive zone, but his possession stats were relatively middling at +4.04/60. That rate was well down the list amongst regular Washington skaters and it was only a sky-high PDO (on-ice SV% + on-ice SH%) that saw him post such respectable totals and a +23 rating. In short, the counting stats are deceiving when it comes to Brendan Morrison’s 2009-10 season. There’s a reason the Caps chose not re-sign him.
Not that he necessarily represents a bad bet for the Flames at $725,ooo. He’ll likely play in the team’s bottom six rotation and see relatively soft match-ups. What this signing does for Calgary is shore up a bottom end of the roster that was poised to feature Tim Jackman, Raitis Ivanans, Stefan Meyer and Brett Sutter to start the season, all of whom Morrison is probably superior to. What it doesn’t do, and what still represents a need for the club if they hope to be better than mediocre, is add another body that can face a higher level of competition.
Still, the Morrison signing as a stop-gap measure is a worthwhile one from a Flames perspective. It may raise some other issues once guys start coming back from injury in the future (given the organizations cap concerns) but that’s a bridge to be crossed later.