Tuesday night’s Erik Cole-Michael Ryder trade came as a surprise to everyone.
It’s not very often that a pair of 35 goal scorers get swapped for each other,
particularly this early into the season. The deal has yielded some mixed
emotions from fans as Cole was coming off a season where he was a key offensive
threat for the Habs. Our writers have pondered the deal and offer up their
thoughts on the trade.
The response from our writers about this deal was overwhelming so we’re
splitting their opinions into two articles, the second of which will appear over
Jason Brisebois: In the immediate aftermath of the trade, the
consensus of those around me seemed to be that the Canadiens had "won" the
trade. They received a scorer having a solid start to the 2013 season in
addition to a 3rd round pick in exchange for a player who is taking up more cap
space, having a mediocre season, and who has another two years on his contract. Also
worth remembering is that Ryder was a fan favourite, and many fans (myself included)
are more than happy to have him back. Admittedly, it is quite difficult to argue
that this trade is anything but a win on paper.
At the risk of putting a damper on the post-trade cheer, however, I think it’s
worthwhile to stress that what materializes on paper and what materializes on
the ice are two very different things. I would not, for a variety of reasons,
expect Ryder to keep up the pace he has been on so far this season. He has seen
an increase in powerplay time with the Stars thanks to injuries to Ray Whitney
and Derek Roy, as well as the fact that Jamie Benn missed the early part of the
season due to a contract dispute. Despite these absences, I would also argue
that Dallas had a more dynamic cast of offensive players for Ryder to feed off
of and support him. Montreal’s forwards can be described in a lot of
positive ways, but I don’t believe that the term dynamic is one of them.
By the same token, Cole has underperformed thus far this season. As recently as
last season we’ve seen that he still has a good deal of offensive upside to his
game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a change of scenery helps him recapture
some of that magic. I personally expect to see the point totals of both players
converge somewhat by the end of the season.
At the end of the day, the outcome of this trade is fairly hard to predict and
will likely not be as consequential as many have made it out to be. Two steady
but unspectacular talents in the twilight of their careers can only bring so
much to the table. The 3rd round pick is likely the most consequential part of
the trade and the factor that tips the scales in Montreal’s favour.
Matt Dilworth: My initial reaction to the trade was one of
dismay. After all, Erik Cole represented what we Habs’ fans had sought after
for so long… a legitimate power forward that would provide a physical presence
to drive the opposition’s net. Despite his scoring abilities,
Michael Ryder doesn’t fit this bill and his last tenure in Montreal ended
miserably as a healthy scratch. Despite Ryder’s earlier successes and current
qualities, I just wasn’t pleased with the trade.
After further thought, I put my emotions aside and
tried to view the trade more objectively. Despite his history of slow starts,
the evidence was piling up that Cole’s game was in decline, and the Canadiens
were on the hook for two more years at $4.5M. The acquisition of
Ryder solved that issue, freeing up much needed cap space next year, with a
younger, comparable player. Ryder is also having more success this year, and
his right-handed shot will be valuable on the powerplay, where the also-aging
Gionta has struggled. Throw in the 3rd round draft pick, and it’s
hard not to see this trade as positive.
The true defining factor of whether this trade is a
win will be decided by what Marc Bergevin does with the cap space and draft
pick; however, unless Cole’s game skyrockets, I think Montreal draws even at
Michael Richard: After my initial surprise at the trade it looks
to be an all around win for the Habs. They get a large contract off the books
which will help next season when the cap is reduced and he is replaced with a
player that is two years younger and who had virtually identical scoring stats last
season. Ryder is a player who knows what to expect when playing in Montreal so
the expectations won’t be a surprise and considering he’s a UFA next season he
is essentially on trial for 29 games for a new contract. Cole was not
performing well so far this season and even considering he’s a slow starter few
people expect him to reach the heights of last season. I see a lot of upside to
the deal, even if Ryder doesn’t perform, without any major downside. Bergevin
has done well.
Norm Szcyrek: I have mixed feelings about the trade. When Cole
signed with the Habs, they picked up a power forward who had always played well
against the Habs every time. He had a career season last year on a bad team, but
jelled well with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais to form the team’s top
scoring line. Cole was at his best coming down the wing with the puck, shooting
it and driving the net. This season he couldn’t seem to get out of a funk, from
the start of the season. Everyone knows he was a slow starter, but even after
the first ten games he continued to play with none of the drive he had last
With Ryder, he also had a career season last year, but has continued a
scoring pace with 14 points in his 19 games in Dallas this season, which
equalled the Habs leading scorer Max Pacioretty at the time of the trade. Ryder
is more of a true sniper than Cole, and has improved defensively since leaving
the Habs, but due to his average size he’s not a banging forward. If he can find
some chemistry with one of the Habs playmaking centers, then he’s bound to have
a good season with Montreal. Since he’s scheduled to be a UFA after this season,
he should be very motivated to play well for that next contract also. The salary
and cap hit are higher for Cole, so Montreal comes out ahead.