Caps sign veteran center Morrison

So eager to play for the Washington Capitals and prove his ineffectiveness last year was an aberration, center Brendan Morrison traveled from British Columbia last week to visit with team officials.

“More than anything, they wanted to see if my knee was healthy,” the 11-year veteran said. “They wanted to double-check, which I had no problem doing.”

Morrison, 33, passed his physical, and the Caps signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million contract Friday in a bid to fill the role vacated by Sergei Fedorov.

Morrison, a durable and productive player for Vancouver earlier this decade, posted at least 51 points six seasons in a row while not missing a game. But an ACL injury derailed his past two seasons; he scored only 31 points in 81 games last year for Anaheim and Dallas.

“The opportunity was there in Anaheim, but I couldn’t take advantage of it,” he said. “I could barely get up and down the ice. When you don’t perform, they move on to the next guy. When I did go to Dallas, I got a lot of minutes right away in key situations, and couple that with feeling a lot better physically, that got me back to being an offensive threat.”

Morrison said he talked with four to six teams and received no multiyear offers.

“I got contacted by Washington pretty early in the free agency period, and it was a team I wanted to be a part of,” he said. “I like their makeup as far as their style of play and their offensive style with a lot of gifted forwards up front. They’re a team that is right on the cusp of winning.”

If he can return to form, Morrison is the favorite to take over the No. 2 role Fedorov held last year before departing for Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

“I sure hope so - that was the initial talks we’ve had,” Morrison said. “Nothing is guaranteed and they don’t hand out positions, but if I get my game back in order, that’s the role I expect to fill.”

In a statement, general manager George McPhee said: “He has a clean bill of health and is committed to coming to camp in great shape. We think he could really flourish here.”

Morrison, who has 505 points in 755 career games, was the center between Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund during most of his tenure with the Canucks. Brooks Laich and Michael Nylander are the other candidates to be the second center behind Nicklas Backstrom.

Morrison’s signing could have a ripple effect on the roster. His addition likely means the team will be unable to sign all of its restricted free agents and stay under the $56.8 million salary cap and will have to bid farewell to a defenseman such as Shaone Morrisonn or Milan Jurcina. Restricted free agents Jeff Schultz, Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon and Chris Bourque also remain unsigned.

Morrison, a college teammate of fellow newcomer Mike Knuble’s, is confident he can post numbers similar to his totals in 2001-02 (67 points) and 2002-03 (71 points).

“This is a big year for me and obviously the team,” he said. “The last couple years haven’t been very productive. … I have no doubt I’m going to be skating well and feeling strong.”

Note - Right wing Graham Mink, who played two games last year for the Capitals and was part of Hershey’s Calder Cup-winning team, signed a two-year, $1.05 million contract with the Florida Panthers. Mink scored 32 goals for the Bears last season.

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