Tag Archives: Ian Cole

Penguins Trade Deadline Thoughts: The Quiet Approach

The 2017-18 NHL season is coming to the home stretch before the Stanley Cup playoffs. Teams are starting to establish themselves as contenders or settle for selling assets and hoping to win the Dahlin lottery. After some early season rough patches, the Penguins are clicking like they’ve shown us they can – Phil Kessel is a Hart contender, Evgeni Malkin is score again and Sidney Crosby is back to his old generational self. But before we can think of the playoffs, Jim Rutherford has to look at his roster and the trade deadline. The Penguins have plenty of options. One potential option is to look for cheaper depth rather than make a splash. We’ll look at a few potential options if that is the route the Pens choose.

Nick Shore, Center – Los Angeles Kings

6’1” 195 lb – 46 GP, 3 G, 9 A, -5

One of the popular theories is that the cost of a high-end third line center like Jean-Gabriel Pageau is too high and we will stick with Riley Sheahan and add center depth to play 4C. Nick Shore would perfectly fit that bill. The former 3rd round pick has been a depth center in Los Angeles for a few seasons now and is solidifying himself as a defensive presence. He won’t produce heavily like Matt Cullen did, but he has a respectable 12 points on a defensive team with very little offensive zone time.

The Kings are still very much alive in the playoff hunt. Certainly not in a position to sell, but they have an interesting dilemma going forward. Jeff Carter has been out most of the year but will return soon. When he does, the Kings will have a plethora of centers – Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, Jonny Brodzinski, Andy Andreoff, Shore and Carter. While they could put Kempe on the wing and keep Shore at 3C, a good deal coming their way could make them bite.

Shore would be a nice fit for the Penguins. He averages 14:38 minutes per game and sees 61.6% dZone starts. He has a 51.9 CF% and can PK well in addition to being a strong, minute eating 4th liner. He’s a solid offensive contributor as well given his deployment. I would definitely feel more confident with him regularly slotting in at 4C over Carter Rowney.

Matt Cullen, Center – Minnesota Wild

6’1” 202 lb – 52 GP, 5 G, 8 A, -7

The Pens look to bring back Papa Cullen? Plenty of sources, including Pittsburgh media, have said the Penguins have interest in bringing Cullen back to the team. Minnesota has not established themselves as a true contender and with a major injury to Jonas Brodin, they may recoup some assets and regroup for next season.

Cullen has not replicated his fountain of youth seasons he had with Pittsburgh, though. He has looked noticeably slow while playing with Chris Stewart and Marcus Foligno, who are themselves a little more Astro Van than Ferrari. He has decent point totals for a 4C with 13 points in 52 games. But his defensive game as been subpar. He is averaging less time on ice and despite pretty even deployment (50.1% dZone starts), he is awful in the CF% department at 38.8. His sharp decrease could be due to multiple factors, but I would not put him at the top of the Penguins list.

Derek Ryan, Center – Carolina Hurricanes

5’11” 170 lb – 51 GP, 11 G, 15 A, -16

Derek Ryan could potentially even play that 3C spot, to be honest. He isn’t the most defensively sound guy, but the league is shifting from the usual defensive role of the bottom 6. He’s a small, skilled forward who can put up points, win faceoffs and mesh in the Penguins system. Carolina is still struggling to make a move into a playoff spot in the Metro and has goaltending issues, so they may look to sell and move on to next year.

Ryan has the most points of the centers listed because he plays more offensive time and also sees power play time in Carolina. He is a guy with an offensive game and can play good minutes – averaging 16:18 in Carolina. He has been a bit sheltered with 62.3% oZone starts but has a very favorable 56.7 CF%. That, to me, suggests he can handle a bit tougher of a role.

The only issue with acquiring Ryan is the Penguins would be down to one PK center – Sheahan. Crosby can PK, but it isn’t the best idea to overplay Sid. Bryan Rust would likely have to slide in as a PK center.

Blake Comeau, Right Wing – Colorado Avalanche

6’1” 202 lb – 53 GP, 10 G, 12 A, +2

This is my first guess that really has not been rumored yet. Blake Comeau is having a really good year as a bottom six winger in Colorado. He has 22 points in 53 games while averaging 15:44 minutes a night. With the injury to Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche might be willing to sell and continue building. Joe Sakic has already done remarkably well this season in terms of making deals.

The Penguins have injury issues of their own. Tom Kuhnhackl could be out long term, as he was reported week-to-week in early February. Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary are also dealing with injuries. The thing with Comeau is he could play anywhere in the lineup – if Sid needs a winger, or if we just need somebody on the 4th line. He can also PK and ideally would slot into a healthy lineup as well as he can play left or right.

Comeau is in the last year of a $2.2M AAV deal. Colorado would likely have no issue retaining up to half to move him. The Ryan Reaves debate has been beaten to death, so I’ll keep it short – more winger depth that keeps Reaves out of a playoff game lineup is good for the Penguins. Teams can exploit a bad 4th line and Kuhnhackl-Rowney-Reaves (when healthy) is not going to cut it.

Oscar Fantenberg, Left Handed Defenseman – Los Angeles Kings

6’0” 210 lb – 26 GP, 2 G, 7 A, +3

I tried not to look too much at defense as I don’t see a move unless we move Ian Cole. But when I looked at Shore, what LA needed and what we could give – Ian Cole came to mind. We’ll get to that. Fantenberg is in his first year in the NHL and has done well, playing as a decent 6th/7th defenseman for the Kings. He has been decent offensively and defensively and provides stability on the blue line, similar to Ian Cole.

Fantenberg averages 14:07 minutes per night. He has 9 points in 26 games, good for a 0.35 PPG rate (that would put him on pace for roughly 28 points for a full 82 game season). He has 52.9% of his starts in the offensive zone with a 46.2 CF% — not exactly great but good enough for a 7th defenseman. The Penguins are also good at masking a lesser defenseman, like Chad Ruhwedel, by putting him in the right situation to succeed.

My thought regarding Cole was a package that brought Nick Shore, Fantenberg and a pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for Ian Cole, who would look to sign an extension. The Kings top 4 is set with Forbort – Doughty, Muzzin – Martinez but adding a stable guy like Ian Cole to the 3rd pairing would help for the Kings. Not to mention, his style is very favorable there.

Advertisements

Analyzing Ian Cole

With the NHL trade deadline approaching and plenty of rumors buzzing around, no Pittsburgh Penguin has been subject to more trade rumors this season than veteran blue liner Ian Cole.

The 28 year-old defenseman is on the final year of his contract and is one of the best pieces the Penguins have available to trade to improve the team due to their strength with left-handed defenseman. Cole, who joined the Penguins in 2015 in a trade with the St. Louis Blues, was a part of two straight Stanley Cup wins. After losing many key players last summer, trade talk regarding Cole has got people talking a lot about how much he’s contributed to this team.

Ian Cole was a member of a ‘rag tag’ defensive core in the 2016-17 Stanley Cup playoffs. When people talk about the importance of Cole on this team, they point to this stint of games. Ian Cole averaged 18:50 (15:47 at 5v5) of ice time in 25 playoff games – he was sixth in terms of TOI for defenseman. He managed to get 9 assists (all at even strength), which was good for second in terms of defenseman scoring.

It does not sound too bad until you take a bit of a deeper look at Ian Cole as a defenseman at 5v5. Cole had 49% of his starts take place in the offensive zone – only Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley had a higher rate of offensive zone starts for regular starting defenseman. Despite this favorable deployment, Ian Cole let up the highest amount of high danger chances against per 60 with 11.55 and had a team leading 1.82 high danger goals against per 60. Cole was considered one of the Penguins’ top defenders in the playoffs, but he really let up a lot of good scoring chances by the opponents.

Taking a look at Ian Cole’s 2017-2018 campaign has been more of the same.

Cole has averaged 17:33 (14:32 at 5v5) of ice time as of today. Only Chad Ruhwedel (the Penguins 8th defenseman) plays less time on average. He has 7 points so far, including 2 goals, putting him 4th on the team for defenseman scoring. Ever the persistent glutton for pain though, Ian Cole leads the team with 75 blocked shots. His ‘warrior’ status definitely is not earned without sacrifice – Cole took a brutal shot from Nashville defenseman Roman Josi earlier this season.

Getting down to the advanced metrics, Ian Cole is still where he was in the playoffs. He’s still at 49% offensive zone starts. Only Schultz has more high danger chances against per 60 – Cole is sitting at 13.3 for the year so far. He also has the second highest high danger goals against per 60 with 1.83, only trailing Jamie Oleksiak.

What does this mean regarding Ian Cole?

It means despite some believing him to be a top 4 defenseman, that just is not the case. Cole is a good role player – someone you want in the locker room, on the bench and on the team. But he is not an irreplaceable player on a contending team’s NHL roster.

The numbers indicate that Ian Cole is a bottom pairing guy capable of putting up a respectable point total, blocking shots, killing penalties and playing bottom pairing minutes. Moving him to improve forward depth would not be the end of the world – Schultz could benefit from less time with Cole and more time withOlli Maatta and the statistics show Matt Hunwick, Ruhwedel and Oleksiak can fill the hole left by an Ian Cole departure.

Is Trading Letang Actually A Good Thing?

Before I get into my point, I want to make a public disclaimer: I am not necessarily on the “trade Letang” bandwagon. So if you tweet at me claiming I am stupid for wanting to get rid of Letang, I will not respond because it is clear you only read the title.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, is trading Letang something that could benefit the Penguins in the long run instead of just being a short term fix?

It’s hard to imagine a team without Kris Letang on it. He has been one of the key cogs of a core that has seemingly been together for the last ten years. But after back-to-back Stanley Cups, general manager Jim Rutherfordis looking for a shake-up to a team that is lacking that juice and burst that has been evident since the 2015-16′ season.

Letang was placed on injured reserve Thursday and will miss Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The injury is retroactive to 12/24 so he can come off of injured reserve Sunday against Detroit if he is ready. The Penguins likely placed him there to have an extra body on the roster for Friday.

Both Nick Kypreos and Elliotte Friedman have reported that Rutherford has indeed “tested the waters” on a potential Letang trade and has gathered intel on what his market could be in such a situation.

Of course, while being on IR, Letang can not be moved. He’s had a bevy of health issues like neck surgery and a stroke among others. Teams likely would want to do some extensive searching on his health before paying the hefty cost for a defenseman of his caliber.

Could the Penguins benefit?

That question will seemingly be tough to answer. The return could likely net the Penguins a couple solid forwards to help fill out some depth issues currently presented by the team. The forward depth possessed over their last two title runs was the big reason they repeated as champions.

Defensively is where the team would be questionable. While Letang hasn’t played defense well at all this season, he still puts up a lot of points on the offensive end. Outside ofJustin Schultz and occasionally Olli Maatta, the Penguins don’t have a ton of offensive presence.

Schultz has proven far beyond capable that he can run the top powerplay as he has been assigned that duty at times due to Letang’s struggles. Schultz’s $5.5 million AAV is very mid-range for a defenseman of his caliber. If he becomes the lead guy on the blue line, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. But he has had some rotten injury luck in his Penguins tenure. The team sorely misses him now and the current blueline is what things would look like if Letang was moved and Schultz was injured. It’s ugly.

Maatta is still only 23. He’s been the Penguins steadiest defenseman all year long. While he won’t account for a ton of offensive points, he can put the puck in the net as he scored 10 goals in his rookie season before injuries derailed the next few years of his career. To think he’s 23 is crazy and his game seems to be only evolving and likely will continue to for another 3-4 years before he hits his maximum.

Outside of that, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Jamie Oleksiak, Chad Ruhwedeland Matt Hunwick are the rest of the depth chart. If Letang is moved and everyone stays healthy, those are likely your seven NHL defensemen. It’s not a terrible core but with every injury, it looks worse and worse.

The Penguins need forward help. Moving Letang would get that. The Penguins have gotten decent contribution from Dominik Simon and Daniel Sprong still awaits in the wings. Outside of that, they will continue to plug guys like Ryan Reaves into the lineup to the dismay of many.

The Penguins have also made it clear they’d like to trade Cole and if they are to move Letang and Cole, they would absolutely need a defenseman back to supplant that spot.

Letang would be a great get for any team because absolutely no one doubts his skill. But the reality is that the Penguins are a cap strapped team year in and year out so moving a $7.25 AAV contract that will have four more years remaining on it would be a nice bit of relief for the Penguins.

If they play their cards right, the Penguins could afford to move Letang if they so desire.

Potential Third-Line Center Options

It seems like a tradition at this point to talk about third line center options for the Penguins.

Yes they acquired Riley Sheahan, but from the looks of it, it doesn’t seem like he is going to be the spark they needed. A spark that is desperately needed. I’ve been a firm believer that there should be no drastic moves or changes made, as it is early, but something has to be done.

It seems that a general consensus is that Carl Hagelin must go. His cap hit and very minimal production are far from adequate. Another consensus, is that Kris Letang is not playing up to par, but I do believe that will change as he gets more ice time. He had an injury that prevented him from even doing any sort of training for the main duration of the injury; however, I would not be too surprised if we somehow see Letang worked into a trade somehow.

Yes I know it seems crazy, but we have seen much bigger moves made that were unexpected, and the Penguins have proved they can win without him, but that is not the topic of this article.

The topic is on the last general consensus of Penguins fans, and that is that the Penguins are in need of a solid third line center. As the season has progressed, the options have greatly changed for the Penguins, so here are my potential options for a third line center.

William Karlsson

I still firmly believe that Karlsson is our best option for third line center.  Yes the Golden Knights are on a tear, but I do not think they will be able to keep up their pace, and they are already showing signs of slowing down. Karlsson has exploded offensively this year with 20 points in 21 games. I predicted he would have his best year to date in the offseason when I stated he was our best option, but we have yet to make an attempt at him. He will also fill our gap in the penalty kill as he is on Vegas’s first penalty kill line.  

However, with Karlsson’s recent offensive explosion, it won’t be easy to get him for cheap. One possible trade idea that might hit some nerves at first, and that is Ian Cole. Cole was an absolute rock on defense last year, and a huge part of our penalty kill. This year he has looked average at best 5v5, and good on the PK. The PK is still struggling though, and it seems to be the forwards that have a tough time on the Penalty kill.

Having Hagelin, Sheahan, and Greg McKegg as some of the PK forwards is far from ideal.

In addition, Cole is looking like he could demand a salary of $4-5 million dollars this offseason, which in my opinion needs to go to Patric Hornqvist more so than Cole. With all that in mind, I think it is worth it to trade Cole for Karlsson, as the Golden Knights weakest link is on defense.

Another option from the Knights which is good, but not as good as Karlsson is Erik Haula.  Haula has had 12 points in 21 games played, and would command a cheaper return.

Mikael Backlund

The next option is somewhat of a stretch, as Calgary is doing well currently, and will most likely make the playoffs. Backlund currently has 14 points in 21 games, which is very good for a third line center. He is also in the last year of his contract, with a cap hit of $3.75 million. This is not too bad as he will most likely be a rental center.

The reason that Calgary may want to move Backlund, is to allow Sam Bennett to move up as the second line center, and progress more. However, with a cap hit like Backlund’s, it would require the Penguins to move Hagelin’s $4 million cap hit. Calgary may have some interest, but maybe not with his recent struggles. This is why this trade may not be as likely, because Calgary is in a win now or soon mode, and giving up a solid center may not be a part of that plan.  

Antoine Vermette

This last option may come as a bit of a shock, as Vermette’s name hasn’t really been thrown out there; however, the 35 year old only has a cap hit of $1.75 million, is exceptional in the faceoff circle, and is a first line penalty killer in Anaheim. He may only have 7 points in 21 games, but his penalty kill ability and faceoff percentages are comparable to Matt Cullen. A trade will most likely be a low cost and low-medium reward trade, being as Anaheim is looking to be a fringe playoff team that needs some youth. Even if Vermette can’t fill the third line center position as well as Nick Bonino or Cullen did, at least he will be a better fourth line center than McKegg.

All in all, I believe the Penguins shouldn’t pull the trigger too eagerly and get the bad end of a trade, but I do believe a shake up could be coming soon.

The Penguins time to win is also now and after this year they will either lose Cole or Hornqvist, while other teams only get better and the Penguins get older. With this being the case, I think the Penguins should be open to trading prospects or one of their defenseman for some much needed offensive and penalty kill help. The only prospect that shouldn’t move is Daniel Sprong while all others should be open to move in trade negotiations.

Sheahan Makes Solid First Impression

Last week, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford made a trade sending Scott Wilson and a 3rd round selection to the Detroit Red Wings for Riley Sheahan and a 5th round draft choice.

Tuesday night was Sheahan’s first game as a Penguin and I, for one, was semi-impressed with the team’s new third line center. He got to play between Carl Hagelin and Patrick Hornqvist.

Sheahan had a total 14:47 of ice time and was able to not only be a plus but rack up his first point as a Penguin, and of the season, with an assist on Ian Cole‘s third period goal.

Sheahan also won a solid 69% of his faceoffs and had 2:18 of penalty kill ice time. To put that in perspective, he had 1:25 of penalty kill ice time in eight games for Detroit. For a guy with only 2 goals in his last 89 games, he made a pretty solid first impression with his new team.

He’ll have to play a few more games to have anyone make a real assessment on whether he’s found his scoring touch again but I have a feeling a team with this much firepower can bring it out.

Sheahan’s career high in points is 36 which, for a third line center, is borderline ideal. He had 13 goals in 2014-‘15 and 14 in 2015-‘16.

I think with the presence of better players around him, Sheahan can rekindle that pace of play and work his way back to his previous self. 

Odd Men Out

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a log-jam on defense. As of July 26, just over two months until the 2017-2018 season begins, the Penguins currently have 9 defensemen that could possibly make the roster come October. This begs the question, which defensemen will be left off the team and which will be the odd men out?

The Keepers

To me, there are four defensemen that are absolute locks to be here and playing at the start of the season; Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Ian Cole. Leaving Olli Maatta off this list is somewhat controversial sure but we’ll get to him later. Besides Maatta, this leaves Frank Corrado, Matt Hunwick, Chad Ruhwedel, and Derrick Pouliot all fighting for the remaining three spots.

The Unlikely

It would seem as though that the struggling Corrado and journeyman Chad Ruhwedel are destined to start in the AHL next season. Despite General Manager Jim Rutherford‘s high praise for Ruhwedel at the beginning of free agency, it seems as though the signing of Matt Hunwick has made him more of a depth defensemen than a top 6 guy. Hunwick is known to struggle, though, and has been driving Toronto fans nuts for years; so if he does start to flounder, or the inevitable injury to a defensemen happens, expect Ruhwedel to be the first guy up. Corrado on the other hand…well, who really knows. It seems as if he’s been forgotten over the past few months as free agency continues. Unless he stuns the coaching staff and GM in the preseason, Corrado will probably be heading to Wilkes-Barre for a majority of the season.

Three Men, Two Spots

This leaves us with Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and Matt Hunwick, all fighting for the two spots that remain. As I’ve said about Hunwick, I do expect to see him on opening night, that may be in the press box or on the ice, but I just think that Rutherford would not give a three-year deal with an AAV of $2.25 million to someone just to be banished to the minors. Now, if Olli Maatta is still a Penguin by October, then there is absolutely no doubt that he will be starting. Maatta’s game went from amazing to disastrous after a slew of injuries stunted his development. Maatta’s mistakes stand out due to his lack of speed. However, when he’s not getting burned, he is still an outstanding defensemen. Maatta really has transformed his game to become a more complete NHL defensemen since his rookie season, but his speed is still something that plagues him. I personally do not want the Penguins to trade Olli Maatta. He is a great defensemen with a bright future ahead of him. That being said, when looking at the void at third line center and the excess that the Pens have on D…if Rutherford wanted to make a splash and trade for a big name, (which he does not have to), Maatta would almost have to be going the other way.  Finally there is the never-ending conundrum that is Derrick Pouliot. The Pen’s best defensive prospect has struggled ever since he stunned Pittsburgh by scoring his first goal on his first shot. Reported attitude problems and losing the ability to quickly move the puck seemingly overnight have made Pouliot spend a majority of his career in the AHL, despite his overwhelming potential. However, in an interview with The Trib, Rutherford said, “Pouliot finished the season real strong.  We feel he’s going to come in and play,” However, if the Pens were to keep Maatta, then the top 6 would include Letang, Schultz, Dumoulin, Maatta, Cole, and Hunwick. I don’t see where Pouliot fits in. I think the kid deserves a shot and also think that he is probably better than Matt Hunwick is, but again Hunwick’s contract makes it hard for me to think that he’ll be sitting many games. To be quite frank, I do not know what the Pens will do with Pouliot if this same roster is intact. Maybe he’s traded, maybe he spends time at practice and in the press box, maybe he takes Hunwick’s spot, or maybe he’s forced to spend yet another season in Wilkes-Barre.

Only time can tell what will happen to the Penguins Defense come October. No matter what does happen, a healthy Kris Letang makes the Pens defense one to reckon with next year.

Offseason Player Grades: Ian Cole

Regular Season Stats

GP:81, G:5, A:21, PTS:26, +/-:26, PIM:72

Playoff Stats

GP:25, G:0, A:9, PTS:9, +/-:2, PIM:22

Player Grade (A+)

Ian Cole may be the most underrated Penguins on the team this past year. Cole flew under the radar for most of the year with his exceptional defensive play and tremendous PK skills. But after these playoffs he is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Cole played like a top four defenseman all year while only being payed $900,000.

Review

Like I said before, Cole had a stellar year for the role he was assigned to, and arguably his best moment of the year came in that role.  His best moment was being a part of that long 5 on 3 PK and later the 5 on 4 PK at the tail end of game six of the SCF.

Preview

I think Cole will have another year similar to his last. He will still be a solid part of our penalty kill as well as possibly becoming a full-time top four defenseman depending on the Penguin’s offseason moves.