Stars trade Brenden Morrow to Penguins

It’s official. The tenure of Brenden Morrow with the Dallas Stars is over. The 34-year-old now former captain was the Stars’ longest-tenured player, being with the club for all 14 of his NHL seasons, and he had worn the “C” for Dallas since 2006 when he took over the role from franchise icon Mike Modano.

Morrow had 11 points (6-5-11) in 29 games for Dallas this season before being traded to Pittsburgh on Sunday night for minor league defenseman Joe Morrow, who he is not related to, and a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. He had played up and down the lineup for Glen Gulutzan this season, seeing time on every line.

His contract was set to expire at season’s end. With it clear that No. 10 was not in the club’s long-term plans, Dallas General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk set out to find a deal that would be beneficial both for the longtime Dallas Star as well as the franchise going forward.

“These are always tough decisions,” Nieuwendyk said. “My goal in this has always been to try to keep an eye on the future and, with my respect for Brenden Morrow, to try to find him a situation, if at all, that makes sense for him. Brenden has an opportunity to play playoff hockey with a good group of players in Pittsburgh. I think it will be real good for him as well.”

And it wasn’t surprising to hear that the veteran waived his no-trade clause to allow this trade to become official. That’s because from the time he made his NHL debut with the Stars back in November 1999 until what proved to be his final game in a Dallas jersey, Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in which he saw 12:49 of ice time on the Stars’ third line alongside Cody Eakin and Erik Cole, he has been a true professional in every aspect of the word.

Not only has Morrow left it all on the ice for each and every shift, he often played hurt and gave his absolute heart and soul to the Dallas organization and to the fans. That explains why there have been legions of Stars backers wearing his No. 10 jersey for much of his career.

Back to Nieuwendyk, he’s actually a former teammate of Morrow’s, which put him in the unenviable position of having to trade someone whom he not only knows and has immense respect for, but also someone he went to battle with between the lines on numerous occasions.

“I love the guy. We’ve had some emotional talks over the years. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him, what he has done for the franchise and the way he plays. He did that to his last game. He’ll always be considered a Dallas Star,” Nieuwendyk said.

But even before the NHL lockout ended in January, speculation swirled around Morrow about whether or not the Stars would trade him before season’s end. This member of the press remembers an interview prior to the start of the season where No. 10 talked about not being happy about no longer being in the top six.

However, instead of bellyaching about it, he stated that he was going to do everything in his power to make it nearly impossible for Gulutzan to keep him on the bottom two lines. Morrow did that for part of the season, seeing time on the first and second line, but with his contract expiring at the end of the season, getting him to waive his no-trade clause to make a trade a realistic possibility was the best solution for both parties.

Now Morrow gets to go to a Penguins team not only with the best player in the NHL in Sidney Crosby, but he also gets reunited with two guys he got to know pretty well several years ago in James Neal and Matt Niskanen, who themselves were traded to Pittsburgh in a pre-deadline deal in 2011 that netted the Stars Alex Goligoski.

And not only will No. 10 be skating with several familiar faces, but he’ll also now be playing for a team with a serious chance of not just playing for but winning the Stanley Cup in 2013. Morrow has 78 games of playoff experience with the Stars but as Dallas fans know, it has been a while since No. 10 skated in a postseason contest and that drought will end in fairly short order with the Pens.

So, with the trading away of its captain, fans and media alike wonder who will the club name as its new captain? Well, Jamie Benn would seem to be the logical choice to now don the “C,” but the man in charge says the Stars are in no hurry to name Morrow’s replacement.

“I’m not in any hurry to name a captain or our team isn’t,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think we can go without one. We have a number of leaders in that locker room. No urgency.”

As for Joe Morrow, he is a young defenseman who starred last season for Portland of the Western Hockey League. However, in his first professional season, he has struggled to adjust to the higher level of competition with Scranton Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League. Despite those struggles, Nieuwendyk feels he has a huge upside going forward.

“He plays at a real high level. He’s a dynamic skater and he has a real shot. He ran a power play with Portland, so he has that capability,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think with a first-year pro there is always an adjustment and a learning curve and he’s going through that with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), not putting up the numbers he did in his last year in Portland. He plays a real quick game, he defends well. He’s not a punishing guy, but he’s a real good puck transporter. He’s a solid player, over 200 pounds. He’s just an all-around player that can move with the puck.”

Coupled with the trading of another fan favorite in Steve Ott to Buffalo last summer, Morrow is the latest big name among local hockey fans to be dealt away. But when Tom Gaglardi took over as owner in November 2011, everyone who follows Dallas Stars hockey knew changes would be forthcoming and any rebuilding project often includes seeing a few franchise fixtures like Otter and Morrow head elsewhere and that’s exactly what happened here.

Still, it will be weird for a while not seeing Morrow on the ice for the Stars or not hearing his name. But Stars fans will always have their memories of No. 10 and what he meant to this franchise. Thanks for all you gave the fans, the franchise and the city, Brenden, during your decade-plus in Big D. You will definitely be missed.