Erik Cole Heads North to Montreal

The Montreal Canadiens wasted little time when free agency opened yesterday. General Manager Pierre Gauthier announced the club had signed Erik Cole from the Carolina Hurricanes and Peter Budaj from the Colorado Avalanche.

Cole is an interesting addition to the side, giving a small Habs offensive unit power and scoring. Montreal’s leading offensive threats are all on the short side. Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec are all under six foot tall.

The 32-year-old winger is six-foot-two and joins Montreal fresh from his biggest points tally since he helped the Canes win the 2006 Stanley Cup. The American played all 82 games for Carolina last season, recording 26 goals and 26 assists. The winger dished out 225 hits, giving promise to a more competitive Montreal offense this season. Cole was one of the highest-rated free agents available, and could potentially do very well in Montreal.

A power forward is exactly what Montreal needed over the summer, and they have their man – with some money remaining for another good player. The Canadiens offered Cole almost double the salary he was earning at Carolina and will earn his money as a physical presence in the Habs’ top lines.

Despite Alex Auld filling in successfully for Carey Price last season, Gauthier inked Peter Budaj to a two-year deal. The 28-year-old’s experience gained at Colorado makes the Slovakian an ideal back-up for Price, who played a staggering 72 regular season games last season.

Josh Gorges and Ryan White have not yet signed for the Canadiens. White is expected to agree a contract, but there is speculation Gorges may opt for free agency. With the signings of Andrei Markov, and European defensemen Alexei Yamelin and Raphael Diaz, there may not be room for Gorges following Yannick Weber signing a new contract.

The Canadiens may still bring in more fire-power, but they have certainly made a big step in the right direction with an experienced power forward with a good scoring record.

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