Rydin’ Dirty: Canadiens Acquire Michael Ryder

by Jacob Saltiel

Yes, Joe, I’m listening… Go on…
from bleacherreport.com

Michael Ryder returns, and likely with him the bitter refrain from RDS analysts saying “O quelle mauvais jeu par Ryder!” While Erik Cole was an excellent player for the Habs, it’s almost certain the Canadiens win this trade. Joe Nieuwendyk might still be better at NHL hockey than NHL management.

Habs’ Plunder

Since leaving Montreal, Ryder’s scored two season of 27+ goals, and been a complementary offensive player in the other two seasons. Last year (35 goals) was his most productive since leaving Flambeau Field. He’s 32 and on an expiring $3.5m/yr contract, and he’s been as effective this year, scoring 14 points in 19 games. In addition, the Habs receive a 3rd round draft pick. Oh, and Cole, who was 2 years older, and signed for 2 additional seasons after this one at $4.5m/yr, immediately comes off the books.

When you add it up, the Canadiens got a younger player who produces about as much offence as the one they traded away, additional cap space this year ($1m), a 3rd round pick, and also cap flexibility this summer. While Cole’s veteran leadership (unquantifiable, but the media reports that it exists), and grit will be missed, does anyone believe that the Canadiens didn’t get the best year of that contract last year?

Seeing Stars

The assumption is that Nieuwendyk’s team-building strategy is to hire players who played in the league during his career. Cole will join Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr for an elderly group of forwards. He might even be effective. It’s not as if the Stars need the cap space, but it’s a curious move, since Cole may well decline over the course of the rest of this deal.

Darren Dreger commented on TSN that this move was driven by the Dallas ‘brain trust’ of Nieuwendyk, Mark Recchi, and Bob Gainey. Ol’ Dregs must have been performing satire by referring to that group as a brain trust, since they’re neither trustworthy, nor particularly cerebral when it’s come to recent trades and acquisitions. Leaving aside that Dr. Recchi once tried to diagnose a player on another team with faking his own death at the hands of Chara, here are some moves that occured with some combination of those 3 in charge:

– James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski.

– Goligoski immediately signed to $4.6m/year extension until 2016.

– Brad Richards leaves as a free agent for nothing;.

– Steve Ott and Adam Pardy (WHO LIKES TO PARDY?!) traded for 1 year of Derek Roy (UFA this summer).

– Signed a 40 year old Ray Whitney to a 2 year contract, when CBA rules means that his number stays on the salary cap even if Planet Earth explodes as David Attenborough narrates “Witness… the vast fury of the cosmos…”

–  Drawing out RFA negotiations with Jamie Benn, then signing him to a $5.25m/yr contract that doesn’t lock him up for many of his UFA years. So, it’s neither a savings, nor will it stop Benn from skipping town when he’s 28.

Despite this, Dallas is in 6th place in the West. They’ve played more games than anyone but Columbus and Nashville, and are only 2 points out of 10th. It’s unclear if anyone can remember the last time they made the playoffs.

Now, Cole may produce as much offence as Ryder did. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a grittier player. The real worry though is Nieuwendyk’s apparent determination to play older veterans. For example, of his core forwards, 4 of them (Cole, Whitney, Jagr, Morrow) are in their mid-30’s or early 40’s, and Derek Roy is turning 30 in May.

Leaving aside whether older players are more or less injury prone, the issue is that all of them are known commodities. Is it conceivable that any of them improve their production? Cole had a career year last year, but that might be the high water mark. For each of them, the odds are more likely that they begin to decline. So, Joe, your team is in 6th, can dive to 10th at any moment, and over the last 4 years has finished 10th, 9th, 12th, and 12th. No high draft picks and no playoffs. Fantastic work threading that needle.

In the meantime, Dallas reduced their flexibility with Cole’s contract, and gave away a draft pick.

The Verdict

Marc Bergevin made a shrewd move. Even though the Habs are 1st place, he’s still making moves that clear cap space for the upcoming summer. Remember that this summer, the following players may be UFAS: Clarkson, Clowe, Perry, and Getzlaf. While Cole is a good player, he was never going to gain more value as a trade chip or player. In selling high, Bergevin acquire a player who may replace Cole’s offence, and somehow extorted a 3rd round pick out of the process.


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