A puzzling free agent acquisition is about the nicest way one can characterize Montréal's decision to sign Daniel Brière. Canadiens' General Manager Marc Bergevin wants a team with character and one that is bigger and tougher to play against, and it's hard to see how this deal moves us in that direction. We acquired another small, skilled, speedy forward, on a roster that already has a surplus of such players, given the current state of the NHL, where Brian Bickell and Michael McCarron are valued more highly than players that can actually skate and shoot and pass and, you know, play hockey.
Mr. Brière is seen as the replacement of Michael Ryder, and some say that is an upgrade, but that misses the mark. We have to see if he's an upgrade on Erik Cole, the player Michael Ryder was traded for.
I was quite happy with the Erik Cole trade at the time. I was betting that his best days are behind him, he had a career year his first season with the Canadiens, but we were now in for the long slow fade, based on his performance last season. Which would have meant two more years with his contract around our necks as an anchor.
But this wasn't certain. I still fear that he may this summer have a better off-season conditioning-wise and return to the Stars re-energized. Maybe he'll avail himself to some of the funny vitamins that he eschewed last summer, thinking the whole season was going to be scrubbed, so he might as well give his liver a break.
So for the Michael Ryder deal to work in our favour, we had to hope that Erik Cole was done as an impact player, that we'd rid ourselves of his cap hit for the next two seasons, and that we'd use that money to get a comparable player, hopefully younger and cheaper. If Mr. Cole has a rebound season, and finished off his contract playing great or even good hockey, we've made a really bad trade. What we're left with as a trade is Erik Cole for Daniel Brière and Connor Crisp. That's not as much of a slam dunk as I thought it was at the time.
The No Trade Clause included in Mr. Brière's contract is another big irritant. If we viewed Daniel Brière as a marketable asset who can be flipped at the deadline for other assets if things aren't going right, well that angle is dead. Some will say he wouldn't have signed here without one, and I'll retort that that would have been fine, since the NTC significantly decreases his value to the team. If the Oilers are in a playoff run and are desperately looking for scoring next February, we can't be in the race to fleece them of prospects, because there's no way Mr. Brière would accept that trade.
So no dice. If I had a choice right now between Erik Cole and Daniel Brière, I'd take Mr. Cole with no hesitation. And I haven't even touched yet on how Mr. Brière could have signed here before when he first hit free agency, but chose to play in Philadelphia for less money than we offered. But I'll save that rant for Mr. Brière's first dry spell. Or sooner.