BOSTON – Derek Morris is the final piece of the Boston Bruins’ new defence corps that will be younger and should create more offence.
One day after trading 36-year-old Aaron Ward to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Bruins signed the 30-year-old Morris to a one-year contract on Saturday.
Morris became a free agent after playing 75 games for the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers last season. The Coyotes finished 13th in the 15-team Western Conference with 79 points. The Bruins were first in the East with 116.
Morris was traded by Phoenix to New York at the NHL deadline. The Rangers were eliminated by Washington in the first round of the playoffs.
“As a player you dream of opportunities like this,” said Morris, who has been in the playoffs in just two of his 11 seasons. “Everybody knows how great the city of Boston is. Everybody knows how passionate the fans are. Obviously, everybody knows now how good the team is.”
Since the Bruins were eliminated by Carolina in the Eastern Conference semifinals, they have parted with defencemen Ward, Shane Hnidy and Steve Montador. Last Monday, they reached agreement with 24-year-old Matt Hunwick on a two-year contract. He had six goals and 21 assists as a rookie, but surgery to remove his spleen after the first playoff game ended his season.
“I’m done for a while,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said of his off-season activity.
Morris spent his first five seasons with Calgary, then played nearly two full seasons with Colorado before going to Phoenix late in the 2003-04 season.
The six-foot, 220-pound Morris is a better offensive defenceman and more durable than Ward. In 793 regular-season NHL games, Morris has 76 goals and 264 assists. Ward has 43 goals and 95 assists in 762 games and has missed more time with injuries.
The talks with Morris began very early during the free agency period. Chiarelli said Friday, after he traded Ward, that “I would expect that we would add a defenceman.”
One day later, he did.
“We are very excited to have him on board,” Chiarelli said. Morris is a “right shot defenceman who has considerable offensive skills.”
Morris’ attitude took a positive turn when he joined the Rangers.
“I had fun playing hockey again,” he said. “It was getting a little frustrating … in Arizona.”
He talked with several teams but it was a “no-brainer” to join the Bruins because it gives him a chance to go deep in the playoffs with a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Morris could replace Ward as Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara’s defence partner.
“Anybody would like to play with Zdeno Chara,” he said.