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A closer look: Habs acquire Ryder from Stars in exchange for Cole

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The Montreal Canadiens and Dallas stars pulled off the biggest trade of the NHL season so far when the Habs sent Erik Cole to the Dallas Stars for fellow forward Michael Ryder and a third-round draft choice. Cole said he knew it was coming since he was making $4.5 million per year against the salary cap and still has two years to go on his contract. Ryder, a right winger and former Canadien, had six goals and eight assists for the Stars this season while Cole had three goals and three assists for Montreal.

The deal had to be approved by Cole since he had a limited no-trade clause inserted into his contract. He said after talking things over with his wife he decided to okay the trade because Dallas seemed to be a good fit for him and his family. The left winger said he realized if the trade didn’t happen now then it would have taken place sometime down the road, so he might as well move now.

Joe Nieuwendyk, general manager of Dallas, said he wanted Cole because he still has time to go on his contract and he plays a more physical type of game than Ryder. He added that the Stars also had three picks in the third round in the next entry draft so it was a good time to make the deal. Marc Bergevin, the Canadien’s GM admitted that Cole’s contract was a factor in the trade and that Ryder is in the last year of his current contract which sees him paid $3.5 million against the salary cap.

Bergevin also stressed that the trade wasn’t purely for financial reasons and Ryder was acquired because of his hockey skills. He said the Canadiens have been struggling on the power play and Ryder could help to kick start it. The Canadiens certainly didn’t make the move out of desperation since they were in first place in the Eastern Conference when the deal was done.

Cole was signed by Montreal in the offseason in 2011 as an unrestricted free agent. Former general manager Pierre Gauthier signed him to an $18 million contract over four years and he paid immediate dividends by scoring 35 goals and 26 assists last season, which was equal to his career best. However, he struggled this season and was taken off of the team’s power play units. He also went through a recent nine-game point drought.

Nieuwendyk said that Cole and Ryder may put up similar offensive numbers, but Cole plays a more aggressive style of hockey, which is what the Stars are looking for. Ryder had one more point than Cole last season as he finished it with 62 on 35 goals and 27 assists. He was tied for the Stars’ scoring lead this season with Jamie Benn at 14 points. The Canadiens originally drafted Ryder with their eighth-round pick back in 1998. He spent four years in Montreal and then signed with the Boston Bruins as a free agent in 2008. He scored 99 goals in his first stint with the Canadiens in 314 games.