Over the weekend, reports surfaced that the Pittsburgh Penguins had been keeping defenseman Ian Cole out of the lineup because they are actively looking to trade him. The Penguins have reportedly told his agent that he can seek a trade for Cole - who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Earlier today, an article was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that list the Colorado Avalanche among the three most likely suitors for Cole’s services - along with the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights.
This makes sense to some degree, though the article doesn’t say why. I suspect it has more to do with the pre-Girard “Avalanche need defensemen badly” narrative than anything else.
Is Ian Cole any good?
The 28-year old that was selected 18th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry draft has turned into a decent bottom-4 NHL defender in Pittsburgh. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup Champion that has been around so long, you sometimes think he’s older than he actually is (Cole is the same age as P.K. Subban for the record).
“Ian Cole on your second/third pairing at 2.1M - totally fine” - Mike Darnay from Pensburgh
In terms of pure impact on the ice, Ian Cole is nothing special, but he provides a consistent veteran impact to a lineup.
Ian Cole’s past 3+ seasons
He doesn’t put up a ton of points, but Cole generates shots at a pretty decent rate for a bottom pair defender. He’s the kind of player you often forget about because he plays a steady game without making you take notice - both positively and negatively.
Where would he fit in Colorado?
When everyone is healthy, the Avs blueline is already a pretty crowded place - but it’s a quantity over quality situation. Guys like Mark Barberio, Patrik Nemeth, Anton Lindholm, and Andrei Mironov are all left-handed shots that are able to fill roles in the bottom-4, the problem is that none of them would slot in as anything more than a 6/7th guy on a good team
Though it’s still a weakness on the team, with the addition of Sam Girard, the left side of the Avalanche blueline suddenly looks a heck of a lot better.
Ian Cole is better than Mark Barberio. He’s probably a little better than Nikita Zadorov right now too. That said, he’s likely not a big enough improvement on either to warrant giving up an asset for - especially as a rental.
He could fit in on the left side of the third pairing behind Girard and Zadorov, eat some of the tough minutes you don’t want to give to the youngsters and provide a little help for Erik Johnson on the penalty kill. That said, unless you’re getting him for next to nothing - or work out a new contract - I don’t think the Avs would want to pay much for him.
Are the Avalanche a legitimate suitor for Cole?
I doubt it.
Ian Cole makes a lot of sense for a team that is looking to contend this season. He doesn’t make nearly as much sense for a team looking to groom a young lineup to contend in a few years.
As mentioned earlier, the reporter in Pittsburgh threw out the Avs as a potential landing spot with no explanation as to why. Everyone around the NHL knows that the Avs weakness is their blueline, even after the acquisition of Samuel Girard. As a result, whenever a defenseman is mentioned in trade rumors, Colorado is going to be thrown in as a potential suitor.
The fact is that Cole is a free agent this summer and the Avs are in no place to bring in rentals. If they can work out a decent expansion before a trade is made then maybe they'd be of interests - though that’s not likely.
That said, if Joe Sakic can get Cole for one of their veteran forwards like Blake Comeau, Colin Wilson or Carl Soderberg, then maybe there is a deal to be made. It makes some sense to bring in some experience to help a young blueline while at the same time freeing up a bottom-6 forward spot.
Thanksgiving has past so we are going to start hearing a lot more trade chatter. Whether a trade makes sense or not, we need to be prepared for the Avalanche to be mentioned as a suitor every time a defenseman’s name is brought up.