By Allan Muir
Tuesday was homecoming day in the NHL.
Hours after Philadelphia re-acquired long-time Flyer Simon Gagne from the Kings, the Montreal Canadiens repatriated winger Michael Ryder from Dallas in exchange for Erik Cole. The Stars also sent a 2013 third rounder to the Canadiens.
On the surface, this looks like a big win for the Habs.
Ryder is in the midst of a six-game scoring streak after setting a personal best with three assists Monday night in Nashville, and he has eight goals and 14 points on the season. The 32-year-old still has a heavy shot and a quick release that make him a dangerous finisher, especially on the power play where he can be lethal with his one-timer. But he definitely suffered from the loss of Mike Ribeiro, who was dealt over the summer to Washington. Ribeiro’s ability to slow the game was the perfect fit for Ryder, never the quickest player on the ice. And with Jaromir Jagr and Loui Eriksson ahead of him on the depth chart, his lack of foot speed made him an ill-fitting part on an up-tempo third line led by Cody Eakin. In Montreal, he’ll likely fill a top-six role where his right-handed shot is much needed.
With just three goals this season, Cole has struggled to find the form that led to his 35-goal 2011-12 season. But he plays at a higher pace that’s more in tune with the new-look Stars — something former Carolina teammate Mark Recchi probably sold to new boss Joe Nieuwendyk.
There’s a possibility that Cole could see time on the first line with Jagr and Jamie Benn, where he’d be a more natural fit than Brenden Morrow. Expect to hear the aging captain’s name more frequently in trade rumors over the next few days.
Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin will be lauded for getting rid of a contract awarded by his predecessor that had two years and $9 million remaining, but that’s a note the Stars won’t mind toting. They have plenty of room under the cap, and will find value in having Cole locked up for two more years. Ryder is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.
All things considered, it seems like a deal that fits the needs of both clubs.