The Dallas Stars made news prior to Tuesday night’s game at Columbus, shipping forward Michael Ryder and a third round pick in 2013 to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Erik Cole, a player Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk believes can bring a different element to the team’s attack.
“It’s a deal that makes sense for us because (Cole) has a little more size and strength to compete in the West,” said Nieuwendyk. “He’s a big guy with experience who has a lot of power to his game. The fact that he has this year, plus two years remaining on his contract is a little security for us.”
Ryder, on the other hand, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
“We looked down the road at when Michael is a UFA this summer – we have to make a decision on all of our UFAs – and when we were discussing whether we would entertain the idea of re-signing this player, the opportunity came about with Erik Cole,” said Nieuwendyk.
Cole knew a trade was coming sooner or later. Those two remaining years on his contract are at a $4.5 million cap hit, and Montreal needs to sign some younger players to contracts with the salary cap going down.
“If it wasn’t this trade, there was going to have to be movement in the next few years and they are going to have to find a way to move that money. … It was going to happen now, or in the summer or next year,” Cole said. “There was a great opportunity to go to Dallas. There’s a player there I spent a number of years with in Carolina in Ray Whitney. I placed a call to Ray, and he had great things to say about the organization.”
The 34-year-old Cole won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and has 457 points (222 goals, 235 assists) in 721 career NHL games. The Oswego, New York native scored a career-high 35 goals with Montreal last season. The production hasn’t been there this season. He has 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 19 games.
“For whatever reason I seemed to have a tough time with the new coaching staff,” Cole said, “and figuring out what is expected of me and what my role is.”
Nieuwendyk said he believes the left-handed Cole, who is listed at 6-2, 210 pounds, will be a good fit in the Stars top six group of forwards.
“He’ll be more of a power forward that will fit well in our lineup, maybe one that will give our second line at this time a more powerful look,” Nieuwendyk said. “(Ryder and Cole) are similar players statistically, but a different style of player. (Cole) has a style that will be more beneficial to our team with how we want to play moving forward, a big body attacking the opponent.”
The Stars GM sees Cole as a player who will bring a veteran presence as the Stars continue to develop their younger players.
“We want to be in a position to transition our younger players and put them in roles where they can be successful and comfortable and then expand into more prominent roles,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think the two-year term with Erik allows us to put some of our younger players in better positions where they can be successful and help that transition.”
Cole made headlines at the end of the lockout, saying he might retire after this season because he didn’t like some of the terms of the new CBA. Nieuwendyk said he hadn’t talked to Cole personally about it yet, but wasn’t worried.
“I am not overly concerned about the comments that he made,” Nieuwendyk said. “I spoke to one of our players who has spoken to him significantly in the last hour, and that is not an issue.”
Ryder, who led Dallas with 35 goals last season, returns to Montreal, the team that drafted him in 1998 and the team he played for the first four seasons of his NHL career.
“He’s a guy who is going to help our power play,” said Montreal GM Marc Bergevin. “He’s a sniper. He scores goals.”
Ryder, signed by Dallas as free agent in July 2011, was in the final year of a two-year deal that paid him $3.5 million per season.