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- Peter Budaj received just 2.13 goals per game in support from the Habs last year. That's the lowest goal support total for a Montreal goalie (min. 10 GP) since Jocelyn Thibault (2.10) in 1998-99 (before getting traded to Chicago).
At the time of the Erik Cole-Michael Ryder swap, one of the main discussion points in evaluating the deal was the cap space that would be freed up in the offseason and who it was going to be spent on. I don't think too many at the time expected the savings to go to Daniel Briere but that's who Marc Bergevin acquired with the savings. With the money now spent, did Briere's signing change the opinion of any of our writers about the original trade?
Each writer was asked the following question: Knowing now that the savings from the Ryder-Cole deal was going to be used on Briere, do you still do the trade or keep Cole instead?
Matt Dilworth: It’s nearly impossible to tell which veteran forward will be more effective over the next two years; both players are in decline, but bring two very different playing styles to the table. Cole brings more of a physical element to the game, an area in which Montreal perpetually seems to need improvement, but his game went very cold last year. The same could (and will) be said about Briere, but I believe that the diminutive forward’s savvy will allow him to find new ways to be effective; I don’t think Cole can change the way that he plays. Moreover, Cole’s motivation was called into question last year when he mentioned retiring, while Briere seems excited and eager to play in Montreal. I think that extra motivation can make all the difference when older players are preparing for a gruelling season. Finally, since the trade also gave us a prospect and a productive half-season from Michael Ryder, I would agree with Marc Bergevin’s decision, and make the trade again.
Brian La Rose: I was hopeful at the time that the savings would have went to a player similar to Cole but by the time free agency hit, there weren't many of those players around and those that were got ridiculous contracts. Unfortunately the free agent market was weak (something that was probably assumed at the time the trade was made as by that time it was already looking a bit shallow) and there weren't too many cap dumps trade-wise that could have yielded a Cole replacement. Briere's not the most ideal of acquisitions in that he really doesn't fill a particular need but he should help the team at the very least and given Cole's season-long struggles last season, we may not have been saying the same about him if he were still with the Habs. I'm not a huge fan of the Crisp selection with the 3rd rounder picked up in the move but hopefully he can turn into a suitable fourth liner down the road. That all said, I still do the trade as I think Briere can have more of a positive impact on this team for the next two years...if he can stay healthy of course (which is far from a given).
Alex Létourneau: Regardless of where the money went, the trade itself was near masterful in my eyes. The Habs received an in-form player, with an expiring contract, and a reasonable draft pick for an underperforming asset. And it wasn’t simply a scoring drought that looked so brutal with Cole, it was the whole package. Ryder provided more offensive consistency throughout the season, so, that in itself made the trade worth it. As for the money being spent on Briere, I would’ve preferred to have seen him in Montreal years ago. That being said, this is a proven playoff performer and if it boils down to having Cole, Ryder or Briere moving forward, I would take Briere in a heartbeat. The Canadiens need to make the playoffs to really see what they paid for.
Matt Macaskill: It’s still curious what really happened with the Cole situation. Did he ask for a trade? He definitely denied that he made the request, but I believe the move was one that benefited him and his family. He was having an abysmal season when he was moved for Ryder who proved to be an offensive catalyst. But then Ryder proved to be his old streaky self and faded at the end of the year when the Habs needed him most. Would I do a Cole for Briere trade straight up? No. True power forwards that can score are too hard to come by in the NHL. However, was signing Briere the best move available for GM Marc Bergevin at the time? Yes. What we do know for certain is that Briere grew up idolizing the Habs and he wants to be in Montreal. His heart is in the right place, and right now that’s what counts.
Kevin Meldrum: I would have kept Cole for sure. Since the deal was made, I would have preferred the money that was freed up by the Cole trade to be used on a forward with size on the wing like Cole and used the draft pick for one of Nick Moutrey, Pavel Buchnevich, Jordan Subban, or John Hayden instead of Connor Crisp. I see both the signing of Briere and the selection of Crisp to serve little purpose to the Habs.
Norm Szcyrek: It's still too early to tell about the Ryder-Cole trade. Ryder did prove somewhat useful on the powerplay for the Habs, but his level of play tailed off near the end of the season and into the playoffs. It's rumoured that he had some time of unreported nagging injury that may have accounted for that. Cole was practically invisible for the Stars, so along with the extra draft pick used to select Connor Crisp the edge so far goes to the Habs.