In the early stages of Tuesday’s game at Columbus, the Dallas Stars sent out a press release saying that veteran winger Michael Ryder had been traded to Montreal with a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for fellow experienced forward Erik Cole.
At least initially, hearing news of the trade of the man who now formerly wore No. 73 for the Stars in Ryder, who actually started his NHL career with the Canadiens, where he was a teammate of now fellow former Star Mike Ribeiro, was a bit jarring. Maybe it’s because “Ryds” had picked up this season right where he left off last season, when he set a career-high with 35 goals to lead the Stars and was a key cog in the Dallas offense.
Ryder, who occupied a spot in the top six from the moment he was signed as a free agent in the 2011 offseason, was clearly a guy that Stars second-year head coach Glen Gulutzan loved to death as a player but also as a great veteran presence in the room. The Newfoundland native had a quiet yet understated air of confidence about him that really showed once he went over the boards and started his shift.
And this might not matter to most, but from a media standpoint, he was always a reliable option when we in the leering press needed a go-to guy to deliver a great quote. He always struck many of us as a guy who yes, was quite laid back but he was also someone who fully understood how fortunate he was to be earning a nice living playing the game he’s loved for most of his life and he truly soaked it all in each and every day.
But after the initial shock wore off, a reality about Ryder set in. Sure, he has been a great soldier during his nearly two years with the Stars, but there was one inescapable fact about him and that was the fact that he was in the final year of his two-year deal with the club and there had already been some discussion among the media about whether or not GM Joe Nieuwendyk and the other organizational brass had any intention of signing him and the consensus was that they did not.
So, instead of letting No. 73 walk as a free agent this summer, Nieuwendyk pulled the trigger, sending Ryder back to a franchise he knows quite well in the Habs and one he always spoke quite highly of. And in return, Dallas is getting Cole, a former teammate of current Star Ray Whitney with that 2006 Carolina team that won the Stanley Cup.
The change in scenery won’t just benefit Ryder, Cole had become something of a victim of circumstances up in Montreal, where a regime change this offseason had left him wondering what his future would be in an organization that still owed him two more years on a contract extension he signed not all that long ago.
Sure, Cole had just six points (3-3-6) in 19 games this year, but heading to Dallas to play alongside someone he knows quite well in Whitney and playing for a new club is sure to reinvigorate him and at 34, it’s not like he’s anywhere near being over the hill. And as Nieuwendyk said in a conference call discussing the trade on Tuesday night, there’s little to no doubt that he will fit right into the Stars’ top six.
Back to Whitney for a second, the veteran Stars winger who is currently sidelined with a foot injury but who figures to return in fairly short order also played a role in Dallas landing his ex-teammate with the Canes. That’s because as Cole said in his own conference call to discuss the trade that he had indeed contacted his friend and former teammate about how he liked playing in Dallas and the man known as the Wizard had nothing but great things to say about playing for Gulutzan as well as the entire Stars organization.
So, Cole was sold and now figures to make his Dallas debut on Thursday night, when the Stars begin a two-game homestand against the Oilers. It’s not every day a GM gets an opportunity to add a guy as experienced as Cole to his roster. The savvy veteran has some 721 games of NHL experience to his credit and he also knows what it takes to hoist Lord Stanley’s bowl in victorious fashion, an experience no GM or head coach can put a price tag on.
However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t thank Ryder for all he brought this team while he was here. Whether it was on and off the ice, Michael Ryder always epitomized class and professionalism in everything he did. So it’s not surprising to hear Gulutzan and his teammates speak of him with tremendous reverence and respect because he was a big part of the room and for that reason he will be missed.
But above all else, the NHL is a business and Nieuwendyk deserves credit for making a solid business decision in dealing him to Montreal for Cole, a guy who has two years remaining on his current contract. Ryder, who had three assists in a Monday loss at Nashville in his final game as a Star, heads back to Montreal, the team he broke into the league while Cole is reunited with a former teammate in Whitney, someone he experienced the ultimate thrill of winning a Cup with in Carolina. So, all in all, it’s a win-win for both parties involved, something that can’t often be said about trades in any sport.