The Stars swapped veteran goal scoring wingers with the Canadiens today, shipping Michael Ryder out and bringing Erik Cole in.

Ryder was signed as a UFA on July 1, 2011. He exploded for a career high last season with 35 goals, finding chemistry with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson for most of the season. The first time in five years he hit the 30 goal mark – the previous being 30 goals in 2006-07 during his first stint with the Habs. He’s been quietly putting together another good offensive season so far with 6 goals and 14 points in the Stars’ 19 games.

The only issue was what to do with him. He’s scheduled to become a UFA in the summer and likely wants something longer than just another two year contract. With the current gradual youth movement going on in Dallas, they likely weren’t willing to go beyond that – something like the Sheldon Souray situation. It’s also possible Ryder just wasn’t interested in re-signing in Dallas at all.

Enter Erik Cole. It may seem like the deal doesn’t make sense. Trade one veteran for an older one (Cole being 34, Ryder turning 33 on March 31)? It likely has something to do with the fact that Cole is already locked in for those two years – no more. So essentially the just re-signed a veteran winger for two more seasons at $4 million per.

Cole has been a streaky scorer over the years, much like Ryder. They’ve put up pretty similar numbers over their careers and also like Ryder, he hit a career high 35 goals last season. However, he’s struggled to put up numbers in his 19 games so far, finding the twine just 3 times and chipping in another 3 assists. But he brings more speed and size, and plays more of a power game  as opposed to the perimeter sniper that Ryder is. Hopefully a change of scenery gets him going again offensively to make this “re-signing” worth it. It’s no secret that nobody was enjoying his presence in Montreal this season, Cole included.

It should be noted that Cole is friends with Ray Whitney and Mark Recchi – all winning the Stanley Cup together in Carolina. That possibly played a role in things.

I think it’s clear the Stars are prepared to go forward with at least some older guys in the lineup, as opposed to a complete rebuild. Which is fine, but personally I preferred a deadline deal for some youth. Something like the Riberio for Eakin deal.

The Stars also sent a 3rd round pick Montreal’s way.

 

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After an incredible 2010/2011 season posting a 33-18-6, 2.30 GAA and a .917 save percentage plus performing at an elite level against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. Crawford now boasts a 22-16-5 record, 2.94 GAA and a .900 save percentage and has been fighting all season to find some sort of consistency.

Last season, Crawford showed very little emotion if things went south on him and found a way to fight through tough times. This season he’s been seen smashing sticks over the crossbar and staring his own players down after he lets a shot get by him to name a few instances. The problem in Chicago is that he is not being pushed by veteran backup goaltender, Ray Emery. Although Emery has been solid in a few outings, so has Crawford, neither showing that they want to take that number one goaltending position in Chicago.

Stake it as a sophomore slump if you wish, but a lot of it has to do with signing a new contract, being pencilled in as the number one goalie, not being pushed by his backup; one of the worst team defences in the NHL and simply has lost his confidence.

All the aforementioned issues makes one wonder if he’s got what it takes to be an NHL calibre goaltender and with the noticeable mental breakdowns he’s had this season, it can’t be overlooked. We feel he is an NHL goalie and proved it last season and on several occasions he’s proven it this year, however, if he can’t regain that mental stability, we fear that he may turn out like Jim Carey who won the Vezina in the 1995/1996 season and then lost it all. Of course that is a bit of a stretch and the absolute worst that could happen to Corey Crawford plus there is a goaltender that is a lot closer to Mr. Carey’s great downfall and that would be, Steve Mason.

Corey Crawford is signed until 2013/2014 at a cap hit of $2,666,667 per season.

What does Chicago do to fix this situation?

We wonder if Martin Brodeur would sign a one year deal this off-season and mentor Crawford and at the same time push for that number one goalie position, far-fetched perhaps but it would be a nice fit.

Other notable Unrestricted Free Agents available in this upcoming offseason are:

  • Antero Niittymaki
  • Chris Mason
  • Dan Ellis
  • Tomas Vokoun
  • Johan Hedberg
  • Martin Biron
  • Josh Harding
  • Evgeni Nabokov

Not much that would seem to fit nicely on the Blackhawks, perhaps Vokoun but after this sub-par year for his standards it may be a bit too risky. Islanders GM Garth Snow insists they will be re-signing goaltender Evgeni Nabokov but would he be the answer? We think not and they might as well just sign Ray Emery who is also an Unrestricted Free Agent again.

Notable Restricted Free Agents:

  • Carey Price
  • Tuukka Rask
  • Ondrej Pavelec
  • Cory Schneider
  • Anders Lindback

The odds of getting any of these goaltenders are close to none although Lindback might be attainable.

There are some decent goaltending prospects in the Blackhawks system such as Carter Hutton and Alexander Salak but neither of them is ready to make the next step up to the NHL.

We think that playing out the season (which the Hawks have no choice now) and making a move to get a veteran goaltender to push/mentor Crawford would be the most likely to happen.

Had a discussion with Tab Bamford about the possibility of packaging some prospects and obtaining a true number one goalie could also happen considering the enormous depth of forward prospects that Chicago has.

This is unlikely but could one imagine getting Carey Price in Chicago? Perhaps shipping Corey Crawford, and say a Mark McNeill and picks for Price? How would Corey Crawford playing in his hometown go over plus all the added pressure of the vicious Montreal fans? It’s understood that Price is as untouchable as any goaltender in the league but remember; Patrick Roy was trade for Jocelyn Thibault…

What do you think? Let us know.

Thanks for reading,

TK0N

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