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In what came as a surprise to many, Pierre Gauthier made a fairly big splash on the opening of free agency, signing winger Erik Cole to a 4-year, $18 million dollar deal. The acquisition of this former Habs nemesis, posting 25 points in 28 career games versus Montreal, obviously garnered a fair amount of reaction. In this off-season edition of Around the Boards, we take a look at our board members’ feelings regarding this intriguing move.

The Chicoutimi Cucumber: The more I think about this, the happier I am – not because Cole is some superstar (expect 50 points, barring injury) but because he is the ideal player to fill a very specific hole on our team. The benefits his game cam bring our club are disproportionate to his profile as a player taken in isolation.

sakiqc: This is a dream come true! Finally about time we get that big forward who can score.

Prime Minister Koivu: This is the first big winger that actually uses his size that we have had in a long time. We need Cole regardless of his contract. He will also undoubtedly be helpful to Max’s development and possibly Kostitsyn’s too. With Cole here we have three solid lines.

Sir_Boagalott: I gagged when I 1st heard this. Now hours later I realize it could work out perfectly, but it could also be an expensive disaster because of his age and previous injuries. Cole is generally good for 50 pts/yr when healthy and he can and does play both ways and is fairly physical.

Habs29RETIRED: Cole scares me because of what I saw of him in Edmonton, his age and the fact that as far as I can remember he played a lot with Staal.

Clearly, feedback to this move was largely positive. Nonetheless, Cole’s injury history and underwhelming time in Edmonton were of concern to some. However, both issues have, to my mind, been somewhat overplayed. On the contrary, given Cole’s physical style, his durability is quite respectable, playing over 70 games in six of his nine NHL seasons. In addition, he has also equaled or surpassed the 40 point plateau on six occasions. Edmonton may not have been a resounding success, but overall appears to be a minor bump in an otherwise consistent career. While the contract’s length and sum are elevated, given Montreal’s long-standing need for a forward of this type, the team’s cap space and the overall free-agent market, it is an easily justifiable decision. In the end, Pierre Gauthier knew exactly what kind of player he was getting and was willing to pay for it.

What has not been mentioned, though, is Cole’s disastrous career playoff numbers. He may be the proud owner of a Stanley Cup ring, but his 14 points in 43 games must be viewed as a serious question mark. After all, a physical player such as him is supposed to thrive in the intensity of the post-season, right?

That’s it for this edition of ATB. Until next time, see you on the boards.

Louis Moustakas can be reached for comments, questions, cross-checks and, of course, fan-mail at [email protected].