ST. LOUIS — In a move that signals the St. Louis Blues' urgency to win now, they signed former Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow to a one-year, $1.5 million contract on Monday.
Morrow's history in Dallas with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong helped lead him to St. Louis, as did conversations with former Stars and Blues veteran forward Jamie Langenbrunner, Blues defenseman Barret Jackman and others.
"I wanted to be on a contender for sure," Morrow said. "Knowing Army was there and Hitch, having success with those guys...they knew what to expect from me and I knew what to expect from them.
"The Blues have been a team that's been knocking on the door the last few years and I think they're going to be a team that can push through it. I want to be a part of that."
He also played for Hitchcock and Armstrong with Team Canada, including the 2010 Olympic gold medal squad.
The 34-year-old Morrow had 12 goals and 27 points in 44 games last season, adding two goals and four points in 14 playoff games despite playing with a knee-cap injury. He played the final 15 regular-season contests and the playoffs with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Until he got hurt in the playoffs last year, he was arguably one of their top four or five forwards," Hitchcock said.
"I kept coming back to I'd rather have him on my team than trying to compete against him, because I know the competitive level that he can go to," said Armstrong, who had been talking to Morrow since July. "I know how deep that river runs, I've seen it personally. Last year in the playoffs he hurts his knee cap quite badly and plays through that.
"That sort of hidden leadership and hidden commitment that's hidden to the fans but understood in the (dressing) room, that's necessary to have a championship team."
The move gives the Blues 15 forwards under contract and pushes them nearly to the limit of the NHL salary cap, which should lead to more personnel moves this week.
It also was a deal the Blues revisited after locking up their own restricted free agents most notably defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
"I think we're indicating that we want to try to compete with the top teams," Armstrong said.
After being traded to the Penguins, Morrow had six goals and 14 points in 15 games.
"I think he's' going to give Ken a lot of different options," Armstrong said. "Obviously he's played with top players in the past, at the trade deadline he jumped right in and played with (Evgeni) Malkin and (James) Neal and had 14 points in 15 games.
"I see him fitting in our group of nine or 10 forwards at some place. He can go up the lineup some nights and some nights other players can take that role. That's what we're trying to create, the ability to have many players do the job that's necessary."
Morrow dealt with neck and back injuries while in Dallas, but underwent a rigorous off-season training program hoping to put those problems behind him.
"I don't think I'm the 19, 20-minute guy I was five, six years ago," Morrow said. "But I still feel like I can contribute playing some hard minutes, being that front guy and add some value to the locker room. The last few years have had some injury issues, but those are all past and the body feels good. I'm a motivated player right now."
He met with Armstrong, Hitchcock and several Blues players last Thursday and underwent a complete physical.
"He's got the body of a 34-year-old NHL warrior," Armstrong said.
Morrow said finding the right fit was the most important part of his decision. He sought out Langenbrunner, a former Stars teammate who ended his career with the Blues.
"We spoke the day before I made my decision and went over a number of things; his time there and his experience, what he thought the team needed and how close they were to competing," Morrow said. "He's won a Stanley Cup, so I valued his opinion a lot. We talked some things through and he seem that team being a team that's been knocking the door and they're getting close to walking through it."
Morrow, the 25th overall pick in the 1997 draft, has 249 goals and 542 points in 850 NHL games.
"He's got game left," Hitchcock said. "He's got game left because he's got good hands around the net, he's willing to go into the dirty areas to score, especially on the power play. I think you can play him up and down the lineup depending on the score, depending on the game, depending on how many minutes he's played the night before."