Habs Ship Erik Cole To Dallas For Mature Ryder, Cap Flexibility


On Tuesday evening, we finally saw the big differences between the current Montreal Canadians administration, and the ones that fans had been subjected to over the last decade. As most of you were probably driving home from work, the team announced a trade which would send Erik Cole to the Dallas Stars in exchange for former Hab Michael Ryder (Cole waived his no-trade clause to complete the deal).
At a glance, a lot of people probably cringed at the thought of Ryder returning to his old stomping grounds, because much like Michel Therrien, he represents the old guard, maybe even everything that had been wrong with this organization. But when you delve a little further into it, it might actually be a brilliant move.
Forget for a second any preconceptions you might have about Michael Ryder. Forget even the carreer-high 35 goals and 61 points that Erik Cole put up in his first year in Montreal in 2011-12 in an otherwise dismal season for the team. On paper, the Montreal Canadiens traded a 34-year old with a loaded contract and two uncertain years ahead of him with diminishing returns, for a 32-year-old right-handed sniper who will likely walk away at the end of the season, as well as a coveted third round pick.
This may sound odd from someone who was vehemently defending the signing of Erik Cole last summer and even into the fall when the winger had a slow start,  but getting rid of the Oswego, New York native may have been the best thing that Mark Bergevin could have done for his team right now. Even with the Habs sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference, Cole was a relative non-factor. He's only put up 3 goals and 6 points in 19 games, and with the Canadiens rolling four lines and getting better results and more production from eight forwards ahead of him, Cole was not only expendable, but  from an administrative and cap standpoint, he was going to inevitably become a nuisance. 
That's not to say that the player doesn't have another 30-goal season ahead of him, but at his age, and with another two years on a $18-million contract, not to mention the pre-season controversy with his supposed retirement, any positive factors were simply outweighed by the potential headaches he could give Bergevin and his assistants.
With Ryder, the team saves a million dollars in cap space immediately, and it gives Bergevin the peace of mind to maybe even look at making a big acquisition by the April 3rd trade deadline, if not the flexibility needed next season with the cap falling several millions of dollars.
Immediately, you get a player who has matured a lot since his first stint in the city. The Newfoundland native already has 6 goals and 14 points on the season with a +4 rating, leading the stars in scoring. He put up a career-high 35 goals last season, and the year before, he of course won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins. In many ways, Michael Ryder has all the strengths that we remember from his four seasons and 99 goals in Montreal, with many of the weaknesses having faded with age.
He'll reassure the team's depth with the recent concussion troubles that Brendan Gallagher and now Rene Bourque have had, and he'll help lift the Canadiens' 11th-ranked powerplay, which needs to get in the top 5 if they're to justify their position in the standings. But quite simply, as Bergevin himself put it, "He's a sniper. He scores goals." What the Habs lose with the Cole are a certain level of physicality that Ryder never displayed, and the easy go-to chemistry he had with some of the players already on the team.
Considering how Michel Therrien has proven us wrong in the early going this season, I think I speak for many people when I say that if Bergevin sees something in Michael Ryder, then we should be willing to afford him a second chance.
But beyond the analysis, the players, the cap considerations, what really speaks volumes for me is the fact that this team finally has a general manager willing to make big, risky moves in order to guarantee this team's success. We've seen it to a certain degree early in the season, and moves like this can go a long way to ensuring that we will continue to see it now that the Habs are all but guaranteed a spot in this year's playoffs. This trade is bigger than a simple swap of wingers. It shows a change in attitude and thinking in the Bell Centre offices, and the change in organizational attitude we've been waiting for.
The Habs next play in Toronto Wednesday night, before returning home to face Pittsburgh Saturday night.