The Dallas Stars trade for veteran winger Erik Cole was certainly an interesting one, aside from the theory that the addition of Cole and subtraction of Michael Ryder could make the team better in the short and long term. The Cole trade was spoken about as a move for the future, however, an "insurance" trade to take steps to ensure the Stars have some sort of continuity at the forward position after this season.
The Stars' decision to go ahead and trade Ryder was certainly a curious one, but it seems as if the Stars had been told that Ryder was planning on testing free agency; while trying to maximize his value at the trade deadline might have been ideal, the Stars could have moved now to secure a player they see as a big part of the building blocks of the team in Erik Cole.
The Cole trade also has a direct impact on another player also set to be a free agent this summer and it's been hard not to ignore the similarities between Cole and Brenden Morrow. Those similarities, and the fact that Cole is locked up for two more seasons, has heated up the speculation that Morrow could soon be on his way out of Dallas.
"There are a few things in play here." That was the first thing Nieuwendyk said to me when I spoke to him at the club's practice rink in Frisco. And one of those things is a much more sensitive issue.
Brenden Morrow, like Cole, is 34. Like the 6-2, 205-pound Cole, he plays a power forward role, although, lacking Cole's size, he does it more with grit. Morrow is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. If the team is happy to take on Cole's contract for two more years, will the Stars value their captain the same? Or is he on his way out?
Mike Heika expands on this thought and even goes as far as to say he believes Morrow will likely be traded this season, as he stated during his chat earlier this week:
SkippyH: Does the Cole deal more or less guarantee Brenden Morrow's gone in the offseason?
Heika: I would say it does. Joe Nieuwendyk has said he wants to do right by Brenden, and that he respects the fact that Morrow has bled a lot for this organization, so that might sway the decision. But Cole does a lot of the same things Morrow does, and you can only have so many veteran wingers, so I think he will be shopped at some point this season. Morrow does have a no-trade clause, but it would seem like he would waive it if he was given the chance to play for a team that has a shot at winning the Cup.
Heika also suggests that the Dallas Stars are going to offer a contract extension to Derek Roy this season -- as expected -- while Jagr and the Stars will likely wait until this season to figure things out. Roy could also be traded if an extension isn't signed by the deadline, and Heika speculates that the Stars are not currently planning on giving a contract offer to Morrow this year.
The Erik Cole trade sort of suggests that, given playing styles and contract status moving forward.
There's a lot of chatter out there, especially the past year or so, that the Stars absolutely have to trade Morrow -- get something for him at the deadline since it's likely he wouldn't return after this season. Morrow is not nearly what he used to be on the ice, although he's looked much better this season -- or at least not a completely liability on the top six -- and could still hold some good value for contending teams looking for some extra grit and leadership as the deadline approaches.
This is a sensitive issue, however. Morrow has been with this organization for a very long time and is the team captain; he also possesses a full no-trade clause that gives him complete control over any trade and possible destination. So we're in a situation where the Stars will work with Morrow as offers come in to determine the best possible destination for the veteran winger -- similar to what Montreal did with Erik Cole.
So, it seems that where there is smoke there is fire. The possibility that Morrow is going to be traded this season is very, very high and it could happen at any time -- just depends on which offers are out there. I don't think the Stars are actively shopping Morrow around but I'm certain there's going to be some interest from teams like Boston and Pittsburgh -- I also feel like Morrow will almost certainly be traded to a team in the East.
The impending trade is tied to what seems to be a certainty that Morrow is not going to get a contract offer from the Stars after this season...and this is saddening.
They say the best teams in any sport are the ones that are the best at moving on from veteran players before they decline too much in play and the teams that struggle are those that hold on just a bit too long (*cough* Dallas Cowboys *cough*) and so in way it's good to see the Stars continue fight falling into the same trap.
Nieuwendyk and the Stars were heavily criticized for jettisoning Marty Turco and Mike Modano when they did, and perhaps Sergei Zubov, although hindight shows the decisions were almost certainly the right ones to make. That doesn't make the decision to make the trade any easier, however.
Whenever he does leave the Dallas Stars, Morrow will finish as one of the highest scoring and longest-tenured players in franchise history. Morrow will finish in the top ten in nearly every single offensive category for the franchise -- North Stars and Stars included -- and will be a top-three scorer for the Stars since the franchise arrived in Dallas. He'll also finish with the second-most game-winning goals in franchise history, second only to Mike Modano.
Morrow has been the leaving and breathing embodiment of Dallas Stars hockey for so long it's going to be tough to fully move on. While the latter years of his career here have been marred by declining production and injury issues let's not forget why those injuries existed -- Morrow gave his blood, sweat and tears to this team for so long by making his home in the toughest areas of the ice.
It's easy to focus only on what's happened the past few years and forget just what Morrow meant to this team for so long. While his past with the franchise should not influence his place with the team moving forward, it's frustrating that this how the business goes -- it's certainly going to be odd to see Morrow in any other jersey.
We'll have much more on Morrow and his time in Dallas over the coming weeks but it's almost a certainty now that we'll be seeing a Brenden Morrow trade sooner than later. It's a move into the future but will almost certainly be a very bittersweet moment for most of us when it happens.