Robert Lafleur February 26, 2013 2
Dario Ayala/The Gazette

MONTREAL– Montreal Canadiens manager Marc Bergevin announced Tuesday the acquisition of right winger Michael Ryder and the third round draft pick from the Dallas Stars, in return for right winger Erik Cole.

Michael Ryder will be back in a Habs uniform, possibly Wednesday night against the Leafs, after being traded Tuesday for Erik Cole. Ryder began his NHL career with Montreal back in 2003/04 and spent four seasons with the Habs before signing with the Boston Bruins after the 2008 season. Ryder twice scored 30 goals in his stint with the Habs but had a disastrous year in 2007/08 and the Canadiens did not re-sign him. Ryder’s goal production fell to 14 goals that year and was basically run out of town. What wasn’t well known back then was that Ryder’s brother Daniel, an upcoming Calgary Flames prospect, was having severe depression problems and had been sent to a psychiatric hospital, which had a lot to do with Michael’s poor play. Ryder, from Bonavista, Newfoundland, bounced back the next year with the Bruins scoring 27 goals, and ended up with a Stanley Cup ring in 2010/11. Ryder signed with the Dallas Stars last season and finished with 35 goals and was plus 17. Erik Cole finished last year with 35 goals as well but has been struggling this year. Cole has always been a notoriously slow starter, but this year seemed different somehow. He seemed to be struggling a bit more than usual this year. Perhaps it was his comments at the beginning of this year that seemed to hint at his possible retirement at the end of the year.

Cap wise, this is a good deal for the Habs. Cole is at $4.5 million this year and has two more years on his contract. Ryder is at $3.5 million this year and is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the year. With the cap set to go down to $64.3 million next year, from $70.2 million this year, the Habs have put themselves in a good position going forward. Scott Gomez’ $7.5 million will be gone, Tomas Kabele’s $4.5 million should be gone as well (I’m assuming he will be bought out) and now Cole’s $4.5 million. This leaves a lot of room to pick up some free agents this summer. Both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Ducks are UFAs at the end of the year. How good would Corey Perry look in a Habs uniform?

Hockey wise, you’d have to call it a saw-off. Ryder’s younger by two years at 32. He’s a little smaller but is a pure sniper, something the Habs power play could use. Cole’s a little bigger and plays a more physical style, although that style may be catching up with him. Great in the dressing room and a fan favourite but realistically, how long can he remain a power forward, crashing the crease for his goals?

In the end, I think there’s something else brewing. This move did not have to be made now, they could have waited until the end of the season. The Habs are only saving a prorated million dollars this year plus, Erik Cole had a no-trade clause in his contract, so he had to OK the deal. Perhaps the Habs are now looking at trading for Ryan O’Reilly from Colorado. I don’t think Marc Bergevin is done yet.

As the Habs GM said this afternoon, “You’re always, always, always looking to make your team better. Always.”