The Tampa Bay Lightning have been busy this summer and remained so Friday when the club announced it has signed veteran forward Brenden Morrow to a one-year deal. The 35-year-old unrestricted free agent will earn $1.55 million according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.
This deal puts the Lightning slightly over the salary cap according to CapGeek.com's numbers and they still have yet to sign restricted free agent forward Richard Panik. That will change once the team places Mattias Ohlund and his $3.6 million cap hit on long-term injured reserve, but will keep the Lightning pretty tight to the cap next season.
Morrow appeared in 71 games for the St. Louis Blues last season, where he was playing on a similar one-year deal. He posted 25 points including 13 goals while averaging just shy of 12 minutes per night. He can bring some value to Tampa's bottom six, but has been hampered by injuries off and on for the last three years.
He scored 33 goals in 2010-11 as captain of the Dallas Stars, but has looked far from that player in recent years, particularly through his rather uneventful 2013-14 campaign in St. Louis.
The Lightning have so many young players on their roster, so having a proven veteran around makes sense. That Morrow comes in at a light salary of $1.5 and with a short-term commitment, there's very little risk in the deal assuming the veteran winger isn't blocking an NHL-ready youngster from making the jump.
Tampa has built such a fantastic farm system and have several players that could be ready. That may mean Morrow spends a lot of the year as a healthy scratch. NHL GMs still put a premium on leadership and Morrow can certainly bring that as a former longtime captain.
Playing on such a young team could energize Morrow as well as the Lightning look like they could be contenders in the Eastern Conference.
There's no reason to believe that the Lightning won't be better next year. They have their aforementioned youngsters, but also brought in free agents like Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle, committed long-term money (probably a bit too much) to Ryan Callahan and are anticipating the arrival of Jonathan Drouin, an electrifying young talent the club picked with the No. 3 overall selection at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. A lot hinges on Ben Bishop continuing his form from a season ago – no small feat – and, along with the rest of the lineup, staying healthy.
It's not immediately clear where Morrow will fit in with this high-paced club, but the low-risk nature of his deal gives the Lightning good veteran depth on a team that is looking to take another big step forward next year.