The Bear Cave

July 26, 2009 9:08 AM

Morris Signs One-Year Deal with Boston

TSN was in fact correct, and the deal is now official. On Saturday afternoon, the Boston Bruins announced that they have signed defenseman Derek Morris to a one-year contract. The financial terms weren't disclosed by the team, but the information from TSN states that the deal is worth $3.3 million.

Derek Morris' path to the NHL began during the summer of 1996, when he was taken with the 13th overall pick in the Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames. Following the draft, Morris returned to juniors with the Regina Pats, before playing in seven regular season games and five playoff games with the AHL's Saint John Flames at the end of the 1996-97 season.

Morris' stay in the minors was a short one, as he went on to make Calgary's starting roster at the age of 19. The Edmonton, AB native played in all 82 games that season, recording nine goals, 20 assists, 29 points and 88 penalty minutes. Following his rookie season, Morris spent each of the next four seasons with the Flames, picking up a grand total of 34 goals, 129 assists, and 163 points in 343 contests.

During the summer of 2002, Morris saw his career in Calgary come to an end, as he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche with Jeff Shantz and Dean McAmmond, in exchange for Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle. The 6-foot blueliner spent parts of two seasons with the Avalanche, registering 17 goals, 59 assists, and 76 points in 144 games. Just prior to the 2004 Trade Deadline, Morris found out that he would be playing for his third NHL club, as Colorado pulled off a deal with the Phoenix Coyotes. He went on to dish out four assists in 14 games with the Coyotes, before the NHL went on its one-year hiatus.

Derek Morris stayed with the Phoenix Coyotes through the lockout, becoming one of the more dependable players in the league. After playing in 53 games during the 2005-06 season, Morris compiled back-to-back campaigns in which he suited up for all 82 regular season contests. This past season, the former first round selection fell just short of that mark, playing in a combined total of 75 regular season games with the Coyotes and New York Rangers. Morris found his way to New York at the 2009 Trade Deadline, as he was acquired from Phoenix in a deal that sent Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, and Dmitri Kalinin to the desert. Last season, the 30-year old scored five goals and 15 assists, giving him career totals of 76 goals, 264 assists, 340 points, and 794 penalty minutes in 793 games at the NHL level.

One of the unfortunate parts to Morris' game is that playoff hockey hasn't exactly been the kindest to him over the years. In 11 seasons at the NHL level, Morris has only gotten the chance to play in two playoff series. Both of those series ended in difficult seven-game defeats, with the 2003 Colorado Avalanche falling in overtime against the Minnesota Wild in Patrick Roy's final game, and the 2009 New York Rangers bowing out to the Washington Capitals by one goal at Verizon Center. Boston's newest blueliner has five assists in his 14 career postseason tilts.

If anything, that lack of previous success should be a driving force for Morris with the Bruins. During his conference call, the veteran mentioned that Boston's recent success was one of the major reasons that he decided to sign with the B's. "As a hockey player, you're looking for an opportunity with a chance to win," Morris said. "Once I got a call from Peter (Chiarelli) with the Boston Bruins, it pretty much made my decision very easy," he said.

Because of the proximity in time, many people around Boston will be comparing Derek Morris to Aaron Ward, as Ward was dealt in order to free up salary to sign Morris. Both are veteran players, who have each played in over 700 games at the NHL level. Morris is more of an offensive player, as his 340 career points more than double Ward's career total of 138. On the other hand, Ward was more of a defensive player, as his 6-foot-2, 209 pound frame made life difficult on opposing forwards. One of the biggest challenges facing Morris in Boston will be his leadership, as Ward was looked at as one of the major influences in the locker room.

During the conference call, Peter Chiarelli spoke about his newest player, and what he brings to the table in Boston. "Derek is a right shot defenseman, who has considerable offensive skill. He can play both sides. He has a very thick, strong body, a very competitive edge, he can move a puck, he can find a seem. We feel that he's an upgrade to our defense."

With Derek Morris' signing now official with a one-year contract worth $3.3 million, the Boston Bruins are once again close to the salary cap. Not counting Vladimir Sobotka, Boston currently sits at $55,495,833, putting them $1,304,167 below the cap of $56.8 million. NHL clubs do have the option of going 10% over the cap before the regular season, but that can become risky business, as it would force moves to be made during training camp. With such a small amount of wiggle room left, the Bruins would need to make at least one more move to free up cap if they have any intentions of having Phil Kessel on the roster for the 2009-10 season. Kessel, PJ Axelsson, Manny Fernandez, and Stephane Yelle all remain on the free agent market.

While Morris took most of Saturday's attention, Patrick Eaves did in fact clear waivers, meaning that the Bruins can now buy out the remainder of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.

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