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Numbers Game: Canadiens pick up Cole

Scott Cullen
7/1/2011 4:34:29 PM
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Looking for size and scoring, Montreal added a veteran winger who should be able to meet those objectives.

Numbers Game digs into the Erik Cole signing.

The Canadiens Get: LW/RW Erik Cole.

Cole, 32, is coming off one of his better seasons, scoring 26 goals and 52 points for the Hurricanes while playing in all 82 games for the first time in his nine NHL seasons.

A 6-foot-2, 205-pound power forward, Cole ranked 13th in the league with 225 hits last season and he's one of five forwards -- Dustin Brown, Alexander Ovechkin, Brenden Morrow and David Backes were the others -- that had at least 25 goals and 200 hits last season.

What helps set Cole apart is that, in addition to his size, he skates very well and can be a real handful for opposing defencemen when he's attacking off the wing.

Cole's size will certainly be welcome on Montreal's size-challenged forward lines and he may find more power play opportunities in Montreal as he hasn't had double-digit power play point totals since 2007-2008.

What also bears watching is that, while Cole played against the toughest defensive matchups last season (www.behindthenet.ca), he also had one of the worst shot differentials on the Hurricanes, an indication that he spent more time in his defensive zone at even strength.

Joining the Canadiens, Cole is now with a team that he experienced some of his greatest success, including 14 goals in 28 career games against the Habs, Cole's highest goals per game against any opponent in his NHL career.

Now with Montreal, Cole joins a contingent of American forwards that includes veterans Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, with whom Cole played on Team USA at the 2006 Olympics.

Cole will be counted on to play a significant role in Montreal, and the four-time 20-goal scorer needs to come up with at least a couple more seasons at that level.

Whether he can maintain that level through the life of this deal -- he'll be 36 when the four-year, $18-million deal ends -- seems unlikely, but for the next couple of seasons at least, Cole ought to be a productive top six forward.

Carolina has options to replace Cole, whether it's with new signee Alexei Ponikarovsky or a number of young forwards, like Zac Dalpe and Zach Boychuk, who could be ready to play a significant role next season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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