The first major domino leading up to the 2012 trade deadline has fallen, as the Chicago Blackhawks have acquired center Brendan Morrison from the Calgary Flames in exchange for defenseman Brian Connelly.
Okay maybe it's not that big a deal. The 36-year-old Morrison clearly doesn't carry a whole lot of cachet anymore. Still, this is a good deal for both sides.
The Blackhawks get a piece that can help them both now and going forward. From the Globe & Mail:
In Morrison, 36, the Blackhawks get a short-term fix at centre, where they currently have two mainstays, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, out with wrist injuries. Morrison's versatility is what made him effective for Calgary in a little over a year and a half in the Flames' organization and is presumably also what made him attractive to the Blackhawks. Well-liked for his professionalism, Morrison can play up or down the depth chart, depending upon need - and for a Chicago team playing mix-and-match with its secondary forwards, he looks as he will be a good fit.
This is all provided Morrison can stay healthy however. He's had problems with his knees for quite some time.
On the Flames' side, it's hard to see this as anything but a contract dump. As mentioned, Morrison has had problems with his knees, and he's been little more than a thirteenth forward this year. Here's Feaster, explaining Morrison's expendability:
"As we projected our line-up going forward we felt it was going to be difficult for us to find a spot for Brendan or get him significant ice-time," said Flames General Manager Jay Feaster. "Given his pending UFA status and the fact that we were not going to re-sign him, we felt it important to try to move him for another asset. In Brian Connelly we obtain a 25 year old highly skilled AHL All-Star defenseman who is still a legitimate prospect. We are excited to have Brian in the organization."
That said, I know it's easy to, but don't tune out as soon as he starts talking about Brian Connelly.
Connelly is an All-Star defenseman in the AHL, having put up 123 points over his last three seasons, including 36 in 43 games this year. While he has yet to break into the bigs -- primarily because he's a small 5'10", 170 lbs. -- he's only 25. He could be a late bloomer.
And even if he doesn't see a callup, the Flames' affiliate Abbotsford Heat have been playing shorthanded for quite awhile. They've badly struggled to score of late, having been shut out 5-0 twice in their last 4 games. They're 1-for-22 on the powerplay over their last 8 games, and they've been in need of a true puck-mover all season. Connelly, who is only four points out of the team scoring lead, will be happily received and should make that team scores better. And score better.
If Feaster and co. are serious about a rebuild (and they are, despite Feaster saying otherwise), making sure the farm team remains competitive is crucial. Even if this move elicits shrugs at the NHL level, they're doing cartwheels in Abbotsford.