tclakin

Busy B’s

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2009 at 11:41 am
The newest Bruin, Derek Morris.

The newest Bruin, Derek Morris.

While Red Sox trade rumors have been dominating the local sports pages, the Boston Bruins and GM Peter Chiarelli have been cooking up a few deals of their own. First the Bruins shipped fan favorite Aaron Ward to the Carolina Hurricanes for former Boston College standout Patrick Eaves, 25, and a 2010 fourth-rounder. Then they placed Eaves on waivers in order to clear the $3.1 million he is owed over the next 2 years. The Globe’s Bruins Blog goes into more detail:

“Eaves was due $3.1 million over the next two seasons. Because he is under 26, he can be bought out for one-third of his remaining salary. If Eaves goes unclaimed, the Bruins will carry his $258,333 buyout number in 2009-10, 2011-12, and 2012-13. Because he is on an escalating three-year contract, the Bruins will receive a $41,667 cap credit in 2010-11, the year Marc Savard hits UFA status and Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, and Tuukka Rask become RFAs.”

Finally, the Bruins put the finishing touches on their plan by signing 30-year-old defenseman Derek Morris – who split last season between Phoenix and the Rangers – to a one-year, $3.3 million contract.

Whew.

Morris, by all accounts, is a highly skilled blueliner. He slides comfortably into a role that was greatly lacking during the Bruins 08-09 run, a role often discussed as the one that most needed filling – that of the Puck-Moving Defenseman. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, who has been vocal about his pursuit of a PMD, described Morris thusly:

Good offensive skill set….Good seam pass. Big shot, good compete level.”

That’s hockey-speak for, “He’s tough on D and can score if he needs to.” And Morris even has a bit of a Bruins connection: Originally drafted in the first round by Calgary, he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2002 in a deal that involved Old Friend Stephane Yelle. It hasn’t been all fun and games for the big defenseman, however. You might remember an incident in 2002 in which a little girl named Brittanie Cecil was killed by an errant puck, resulting in the NHL installing protective netting around the rink. Well, the puck – rocketing towards the net after an Espen Knutsen slapshot – deflected off Morris and into the stands, where it struck the 13-year-old Cecil in the temple. Though certainly no fault of Morris’s, it is interesting to note that he was involved in perhaps one of the seminal hockey moments of the last twenty years, at least from a safety standpoint.

It's tough to see Wardo go.

It's tough to see Wardo go.

By signing Morris, the B’s got both younger and better, but that doesn’t make it any easier to see consummate Good Guy Aaron Ward go. I am glad that he is returning to his hometown team (he lives in Cary, NC – one town over from Raleigh), but I can’t help but wonder whether his locker room relationship with Scotty Bleepin’ Walker will be a little frosty, after Walker’s sucker punch in last year’s playoffs. Ward, to his credit, shrugged off any speculation of the sort:

Those are things that happen during the game,” Ward said. “It’s water under the bridge. I’m on his team now.” (Quote taken from the Boston Globe Bruins Blog).

And that right there is a perfect example of why I’m sorry to see Ward leave Boston – he seems like a genuinely nice guy. He’s been a solid presence in the community – from his appearances on local radio to the “Cuts for a Cause” Children’s Hospital fundraising event he coordinated which ultimately generated close to 60 thousand dollars for the Children’s Pediatric Oncology Unit – and he is universally revered in the locker room. It’s always hard to replace a guy like that, no matter what sport we’re talking about, but in hockey – a game predicated on fierce loyalty, teamwork, and togetherness – players like Ward are especially important.

Derek Morris, while certainly an upgrade from a skill standpoint, has some pretty big skates to fill.

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