Derek Morris, pursued by the Bruins from the opening of free agency on July 1, said he considered other options. But Boston’s early push, coupled with a visit to the city to meet with GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien, helped convince him that signing a one-year, $3.3 million contract with the Bruins was his best option.
“They showed interest right away,” said Morris. “That was kind of the way I was leaning to start with. Once I heard about the opportunity to play there, it was a no-brainer.”
In Morris, the Bruins feel they’ve signed a No. 2 defenseman who could possibly replace Aaron Ward as Zdeno Chara’s partner. Morris has averaged 20-plus minutes per game every season except his rookie year in Calgary. Morris played in 82 games in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
“He’s been very durable over the years,” Chiarelli said. “He’s got a nice, thick body. He uses it very well when he plays. It’s one of the reasons why he’s been very durable. I think we’ve seen the tip of the iceberg with Derek the last couple years. He does have a very good skill set. He really makes a nice pass. He’s got a tremendous shot and a really good offensive skill set. The thing we really liked was his compete level. You’ll see that in September. I think it’s a tremendous addition for us.”
* Morris, a father of three, acknowledged being humbled that there weren’t as many multi-year deals being offered. Morris hoped that he would play well enough in 2009-10 to earn an extension with Boston. “It might be one year. It might be five years,” said Morris. “Who knows how things turn out. But I’m ecstatic about where I’m going. My family and kids are going to absolutely love it.”
* Julien and the Bruins sold Morris on the box-plus-one system, which goes in concert with how far the Boston forwards come back for the puck. “It’s a very manageable system for a defenseman,” Morris said. “You play your game really smart and worry about your own end first. Our forwards come back really hard. As a defenseman, that’s a dream. You want backpressure that will allow you to stay up a little more. There are situations where you might not have a great gap, but you’ll have forward help. In talking to them, they want me to do a real good job of getting the puck out of the zone and making that first pass. There are great forwards on this team control the puck really well. As a defenseman, my job is to get it to the forwards.”
* Prior to his trade to New York, Morris had played for three Western teams: Calgary, Colorado, and Phoenix, qualifying for the playoffs only once. Morris sounded like his late-season experience with the Rangers, which included a seven-game first-round battle with Washington, gave him some much-needed life. “In New York at the end of last year, I learned how to play again,” Morris said. “I had fun playing hockey again. It was a little bit frustrating playing in Arizona here. You start questioning yourself. I was questioning myself and what I was doing wrong and trying to make that better. Getting the opportunity in New York opened up my eyes to what it took to play in the NHL once again.”
* Chiarelli confirmed he is done dealing for a while. The Bruins could have their opening night lineup in place.
* Morris sat out part of the 2000-01 season because of a contract dispute. In hindsight, Morris said the holdout was a mistake, partly because of a decline in his conditioning. However, then-Calgary coach Brian Sutter not-so-delicately informed Morris upon his return that poor shape was unacceptable. Since then, Morris said, he’s been committed to conditioning, which he credits for his durability.