In a move that was first reported by INSIDEHOCKEY.com’s James Murphy on Friday afternoon, the Boston Bruins  have signed puck-moving defenseman Derek Morris  to a one-year, $3.3 million contract for next season. The signing of the 30-year-old Morris was confirmed by both ESPN.com and TSN.com later on Friday night, and came down within the same breath of dealing 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward  back to the Carolina Hurricanes  on Friday morning.
Morris was one of the defensemen that the Bruins targeted at last season’s trade deadline, but failed to acquire when they instead dealt with the Anaheim Ducks  for Steve Montador. Morris has played in at least 75 games in each of his last three seasons, and had 25 points (5 goals, 20 assists) splitting time for the Phoenix Coyotes  and New York Rangers  last season.
Morris is certainly a faster-skating, puck-moving option (Morris had a career-high 11 goals, 48 points and +16 with the Avalanche during the 2002-03 season) than Ward was at his advanced hockey age, and he’s a safe bet to avoid some of the nicks and injuries that Ward suffered over the last few seasons. It’s expected that Morris and Zdeno Chara  will be paired together as a defensive unit, and it’ll be interesting to see how Chara responds to skating with a player that isn’t as defensively responsible as Ward proved to be.
The $3.3 million price tag is a pretty high price for Morris and leaves the Bruins with roughly $1.3 million under the salary cap with Phil Kessel  still sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent. The feeling at this address is that the Bruins tried to deal Kessel through much of June, but couldn’t a deal to their liking and aren’t going to deal the 36-goal sniper this summer.
Either he signs a one-year deal with the Bruins for less than $4 million — and the Bruins are forced to trade another valuable dressing room/grit commodity like Chuck Kobasew  — or Kessel sits and watches the Black and Gold hockey world move forward without him.