Erik Cole Traded to the Dallas Stars

Tuesday evening, the Dallas Stars sent a bit of a shockwave through hockey newswires with the announcement of a trade.

Michael Ryder, he of 35 goals last season, is being shipped back to Montreal, along with a third round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, for Erik Cole, a former 35-goal scorer in his own right.

On the surface, the trade may puzzle some Stars fans. Dallas is 18th in the NHL in goals per game, and just traded its co-leading scorer, along with a draft pick, for a guy who has only six points in 19 games this season. Ryder seemed comfortable in Dallas, posting one of the best seasons of his career in 2011-12 with 35 goals and 62 points, and was just hitting his stride this season with three assists Monday night against Nashville.

But, despite first impressions, this trade does make sense for the Stars. After an offseason where the Stars got ‘smaller’ up front, they add a little bit of bulk in Cole who has 43 hits to Ryder’s 19. While their 2013 seasons have been remarkably different in terms of point production, Cole still boasts a similar offensive upside to Ryder. During the past two seasons, he has posted 113 points in 164 games, compared to 103 points in 161 games for Ryder.

erik cole traded to Dallas
Erik Cole traded to Dallas (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

There is also the issue of contracts. While Cole is two years older than Ryder at 34, he is under contract for two more years at $4 million per season. While that number is slightly more than the $3.5 million Ryder makes, Dallas is a team that is still well bellow the salary cap.

Ryder, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent following the season. With his successful 2011-12 season, as well as his good start this season, he is a guy who will likely have multiple bidders in the offseason. When push comes to shove, there is no guarantee he would want to remain in Dallas, a team that has missed the playoffs four straight years.

The bottom line here is how this trade pans out depends on how each player responds to new situations. Ryder began his career in Montreal and had several good years there.

Cole, on the other hand, had a rough start to this year after a successful first year with the Canadiens. During the lockout, he made some comments about how he planned to retire after the season because of the developments of the CBA. The fact that Dallas added a 3rd round pick to a trade for two seemingly equal players likely won’t please too many fans.

Perhaps a fresh start is something he needs to get back on track. However, the only other time he played for a Western Conference team, in 2008-09 with Edmonton, he lasted less than a season before being shipped back to Carolina. Stars fans can only hope this western trek turns out a little better.