Michael Ryder’s stay in Montreal could be for a short time because the newly acquired forward will once again be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
But for now, the 6-foot, 198-pound right wing is hoping to help the Canadiens remain an Eastern Conference contender — and his scoring talents certainly will help. He scored 35 times last season for the Dallas Stars, and had six goals and eight assists in 19 games this season.
His 14 points automatically gave him a share of the Montreal scoring lead heading into Wednesday night’s game against Maple Leafs in Toronto.
Ryder was in the lineup the day after Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergervin reacquired him in a Tuesday trade with Dallas that sent right-winger Erik Cole the other way.
Playing mostly on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller, the Bonavista native didn’t have any points and was minus one as the Canadiens won 5-2 (see story, page C2).
Ryder played 314 games with Montreal to start his NHL career from 2003 to 2008, including back-to-back 30-goal seasons from 2005 to 2007.
Interestingly, he scored a hat trick against the Leafs in the last game he played for the red, white and blue against Toronto before he was signed as a free agent by the Boston Bruins in 2008. He played three seasons for the Bruins, including helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2011, before he was signed in the off-season by the Stars.
“That was a while ago. I just want to go out and try and help the team and get results,” said Ryder, who was surrounded by dozens of media at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday morning.
“I didn’t expect what happened. It was my first time getting traded. As it all sinks in I’m excited to be back where it (career) all started.”
Ryder was getting ready to go to the rink in Columbus for the Stars Tuesday-night game against the Blue Jackets when he was told he had been traded. He got very little sleep and didn’t participate in the Canadiens’ Wednesday’s optional morning skate, but will be ready for the game.
“It (trade) caught me off guard. I never knew how the other guys felt when they got traded, but now it’s finally happened to me,” Ryder said. “It’s part of the game. You just have to accept it. But for me to be able to come back here (Montreal) is nice and exciting.
“They’ve been winning. I don’t want to mix things up too much. I will try and do what I can to help the team win.”
Montreal also received a third-round pick in the 2013 entry draft in a deal that is by all accounts designed to help their power play and reduce next season’s payroll when the cap drops to $64.5 million.
Ryder was an eighth-round selection (216th overall) by the Canadiens in the 1998 entry draft. In his first stint with Montreal, he had 207 points (99 goals and 108 assists).
Signed as a free agent in 2011, Cole played 19 games this season for the Canadiens and had three goals and three assists. Like Ryder, Cole, 34, also scored 35 last season.
Montreal head coach Michel Therrien coached Ryder for part of a season in the AHL.
“He became a good player. He gained maturity,” Therrien told the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey
“He became an established NHL player and won a Stanley Cup.
“He’s a winner.”
He is also 32.
“I’m older. As you go on, experience is a big thing,” Ryder told the Gazette. “I never thought I’d be one of the older guys on a team, not that I’m that old. I’m only 32. I hope that I can help some of the young guys.”
Cole still has two years left on his $4.5 million per season contract. Ryder is in the last year of a two-year deal at $3.5 million per season. He’s unsure of what will happen.
“It’s hard to say. It seems like I’m always a UFA,” Ryder said when asked if he hoped to remain in Montreal beyond this season.
“I’ve had only one long-term deal and that was with Boston. Who knows what’s going to happen. I just want to go out and play hard and help the team make the playoffs.”