Morrison adds depth to Hawks' roster

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Morrison adds depth to Hawks' roster

It's a tale of two careers for the Blackhawks' newly-acquired Brendan Morrison. At one time he was an upper-echelon center in the NHL, but those glory days have passed.

During the prime of his career with the Vancouver Canucks, Morrison centered one of hockey's most lethal line combinations called the "West Coast Express" from 2002-2004. He played between Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. During that three-year span, he scored 70 goals with 128 assists. However, in the last two seasons (94 games) he has just 13 goals and 41 assists.

But the scoring and top-notch playmaking ability has passed him by. At 36, Morrison adds depth at a critical position, and brings plenty of playoff experience.

A healthy Morrison assures that Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp can settle into their natural wing positions and not have to worry about playing center anymore. Morrison could immediately slide into the No. 2 role in between Sharp and Marian Hossa, and see a rise in his assists playing in between two elite snipers once again. That likely pushes Marcus Kruger to a fourth-line role in between some combination of Jamal Mayers, Michael Frolik, Andrew Brunette and Bryan Bickell while Dave Bolland resumes his regular spot on the third line, likely between Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes.

Morrison is also strong on faceoffs, winning them at a 50.3 percent clip -- now second on the team behind the league-leading Toews.

At best, Morrison flashes some of the play-making ability he once had and wins critical faceoffs. At worst, he is another Sami Pahlsson circa 2009. It's a low-risk, high-reward move as defenseman Brian Connelly -- while putting up nice numbers for Rockford -- was likely never going to crack the Hawks' defense corps.

Morrison won't put the Blackhawks over the top in the tough Central Division and isn't going to be the difference-maker in the run to a Stanley Cup. He'll help, sure, but he's just one more piece to a puzzle that's still incomplete -- likely the first of two or three moves between now and the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

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LAS VEGAS — As soon as the Blackhawks’ season ended, the questions began for Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marcus Kruger. They were two of the most likely candidates to be exposed to the expansion draft and the two most likely to be part of the Blackhawks’ attempts to get back under the salary cap.

One is now a Vegas Golden Knight (for now). The other remained with the Blackhawks on Wednesday night but could nevertheless be on the move soon.

Van Riemsdyk was one of 30 players selected by the Golden Knights at the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday in Las Vegas, but will he stay there? A source said that van Riemsdyk, one of 13 defensemen the Golden Knights picked, could be traded again soon and that Carolina and Dallas were possible destinations. The 25-year-old van Riemsdyk played in 58 games with the Blackhawks last season, recording five goals and 11 assists. Van Riemsdyk has one season remaining on his current contract with a $825,000 cap hit.

As for Kruger, who has two seasons remaining on his current deal ($3.083 million cap hit per season), he was still with the Blackhawks as of Wednesday night. Will he remain there this season after all? Marian Hossa will not play in the 2017-18 season, and the Blackhawks may be able to place him on long-term injured reserve, which wouldn’t make their salary cap situation nearly as dire as it originally was going to be. But a source said Kruger could still be traded to the Golden Knights for one of their defensemen. If that happens, the Blackhawks would miss Kruger’s defensive work and his penalty killing.

When asked about this uncertain summer back in April, Kruger said he wasn’t paying much attention to the rumors. But he knew what the possibilities were.

“If that happens, that’s the situation,” he said then. “We all know what’s going on and stuff like that can happen. You have to get ready for that.”