They're different players who play different positions; but if there's a common bond shared between Michael Ryder(notes) and Erik Cole(notes), besides their bulging wallets filled with free-agent riches, it's the concept of separation anxiety — only it's their new teams that should be feeling it.
Cole signed a 4-year, $18-million deal with the Montreal Canadiens that features a no-trade clause, following a 26-goal, 26-assist season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Ryder won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and then signed a 2-year, $7 million deal with the Dallas Stars.
Which signing will turn out to be the better signing?
For Cole, it's a chance to prove that he can succeed outside of the Hurricanes, having already failed at that once in a disastrous stint with the Edmonton Oilers. From Rory Boylen of The Hockey News on why the Habs' signing of Cole made them a Free Agent Frenzy loser:
The last time Erik Cole left Carolina was in a trade to Edmonton and his season with them was so bad they traded him back to Carolina before it was even over. Now, he did have a strong 52-point season with Carolina in 2010-11, but $4.5 million for four years seems excessive. Has he found his game again or did he just enjoy playing with Eric Staal(notes)? You choose.
Cole saw plenty of time on Staal's wing last season, producing some of his best offensive numbers in years. It's a legitimate concern, but that's supposing he can find chemistry with any of the Canadiens' pivots, which remains to be seen.
Cole is coming off a bounce-back season with the Carolina Hurricanes. He had 26 goals and 26 assists and played 82 games for the first time in his career.
That latter stat is important because Cole has had some injury problems in his career, most notably a broken vertebra in 2006. One of the bonuses in the signing is that he can tutor Max Pacioretty(notes) in the art of playing power forward and give Pacioretty some advice in coping with the comeback from his own injury problems. Cole is a left-handed shot but says he's most comfortable on the right wing and that's where the Canadiens will use him.
Ryder's rap is that Bruins Coach Claude Julien is one of the only bench bosses that knew how to manage expectations and get the most out of him. Even then, his offensive numbers have slipped in consecutive seasons.
Like Cole with Gionta, Ryder has some history with Dallas players. From ESPN Dallas:
"I played with him in the minors and in Montreal my first two years," Ryder said. "We got along well and played together well. I don't know what the situation is going to be like when I get there, but it's nice to know there is somebody there that you've played with before."
Statistically, there's a chance Cole will put up better numbers than Ryder. But it's all about optics sometimes: Let's say Cole puts up 22 goals and 45 points next season, and Ryder repeats his 18-23-41 from last season. Cole's numbers will be down, the Staal effect will seem real and that $4.5 million cap hit will seem elephantine.
We're not fans of the Cole contract. It's a lot of money and years to a guy that's already flamed out once outside of Raleigh and a guy who suffered an injury or two in his career.
That said: We could see him being a solid contributor to the Habs before we could see a Michael Ryder offensive renaissance in Dallas.
Odd as it might seem, we'd give the nod to Cole to excel outside of his comfort zone.