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Kovacevic: Morrow down, more to come |

Kovacevic: Morrow down, more to come

| Monday, March 25, 2013 12:00 a.m
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Defenseman Joe Morrow takes a shot during the Penguins' development camp on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at Consol Energy Center.

At some point Sunday, the cell phone of Joe Nieuwendyk, the Stars’ general manager, rang. And the voice at the other end was that of his counterpart with the Penguins.

Imagine …

“Hey, Joe, it’s Ray!”

“Oh … um, not Ray …”

“Yeah, Ray Shero! Remember? How are ya, bud?”

“Well, listen, Mr. Shero, sir, I think my house has been hit by a meteorite, and it’s best if I …”

“No, no, hang on a sec, Joe! Want to talk deal?”

“Gee, I, uh …”

Somehow, some way, that chat culminated in another trade between those two, this one bringing firebrand veteran winger Brenden Morrow for defense prospect Joe Morrow, as well as a swap of draft picks.

Yeah, the same execs who in February 2011 agreed to exchange Alex Goligoski for James Neal and Matt Niskanen hooked up once again.

And people are worried about this … why exactly?

Let’s set aside the two-Morrow trade for a bit and look at all the other players Shero has shipped away: Angelo Esposito, Ryan Whitney, Luca Caputi, Colby Armstrong, Noah Welch, Erik Christensen, Daniel Carcillo, Dany Sabourin, Ryan Stone, Martin Skoula, Zbynek Michalek, Dominic Moore, Daryl Sydor, Mark Letestu, Ben Lovejoy and, of course, Jordan Staal.

Staal will be missed – yes, even if Brandon Sutter continues to delight – but has anyone ever lost sleep over the rest?

I’ll grant you a wink over a couple of them. Maybe.

Look, Shero knows his stuff.

He knows who he’s getting, he knows what he’s sending out and, above all, he knows what the Penguins need.

In Morrow’s case, the GM and his staff looked at film of Evgeni Malkin’s time during the two years of making the Stanley Cup final and saw how having a winger go to the net – think Ruslan Fedotenko – opened up ice for Malkin’s moves.

Morrow is that guy. Sure, he’s 34 and he’s been banged up, but he’s also three years removed from a career-high 33 goals for Dallas as well as a surprising spot on Canada’s gold-medal Olympic team in Vancouver. He uses that stocky 6-foot frame to drive relentlessly to the net, and he’s adept once he arrives.

“He goes to the dirty areas,” Shero said Sunday night. “It’s something we felt we needed.”

“Brenden’s a great character guy off the ice and hard to play against when he’s out there,” defenseman Matt Niskanen, his old Dallas teammate, said. “He’s a meat and potatoes guy and, honestly, I think he’s a good fit.”

Both are right.

And all the Penguins give up is a mightily struggling prospect at a position where they’ve deliberately overloaded?

Shero described himself as “losing sleep” over Joe Morrow. Sorry, all due respect, but I don’t buy it. This was a no-brainer for this team at this time.

Let me put it bluntly: You don’t make trades to win trades. You make trades to win games.

It isn’t about grading up or down that day. It’s about adding to a team that’s firmly atop a wobbly Eastern Conference, that’s got the two best players in the world and, as everyone saw Sunday night with a flick of Tyler Kennedy’s wrists at the expense of the hated Flyers, has won 12 in a row.


It’s about the Stanley Cup.

Right now.

And based on my talks with the front office over the weekend, that’s exactly what Shero and company intend to do.

Brenden Morrow’s acquisition almost surely quashes any push to pry Jarome Iginla out of Calgary, but his price is prohibitive, anyway. And, really, the Penguins would be wise not to shuffle the current forwards much more. Beau Bennett on a third line works because Sutter and Matt Cooke are skilled. That actually could be a terrific trio. But the Penguins aren’t leading the league in goals by accident.

That leaves a defenseman as the next priority.

I can tell you the Penguins are not optimistic about landing a top-4, if only because those guys flat-out aren’t available right now. But top-6 is different, and the team has realistic hopes set on a big, rangy, physical guy.

Want a name?

Phoenix’s Rostislav Klesla isn’t exactly punishing, but he’s 6-3, left-handed, kills penalties, blocks shots and is 31 with another year on his contract.

Coincidence or not, Don Maloney, the Coyotes’ GM, has taken in these past two games at Consol. He and Shero haven’t talked trade yet, from what I gather, but expect to do so soon.

If it isn’t Klesla, feel free to project someone in that mold.

Otherwise, the team you see is the team you’ll get. I hear that Bennett won’t be traded, and Shero stated firmly Sunday that neither will Simon Despres. Both have proven themselves, and both will keep playing.

But Morrow still is welcome.

One more would be, too.

Keep that ringer on, Joe.

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