The rumor over the past several days is that the Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to shop defenseman Ian Cole. He has been a healthy scratch over the past three games. This raises the question: is it because they want him to be healthy so he doesn’t get hurt, or is there a rift growing between him and head coach Mike Sullivan?
Chad Ruhwedel has been playing in his place lately, picking up one assist in 21 games this season. Cole, on the other hand, has one goal and two assists in 20 games so far this season. Cole is known as a shot blocker and can play shutdown defense. Cole has played a big role for the Penguins on defense during the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and general manager Jim Rutherford feels like he can’t lose him for nothing in the offseason. So what place makes the most season for Ian Cole? I think he will either be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Edmonton Oilers.
Toronto needs a shutdown defense and they have a chance to win it all this season. Cole ($2.1 million) could get traded for Tyler Bozak ($4.2 million). Bozak is a centerman and he would be a good third line centerman for the Penguins. Bozak is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. In 25 games, he has scored four goals and recorded seven assists.
The Penguins could either look add a draft pick in the deal and/or Carl Hagelin ($4 million and unrestricted free agent after the 2018-2019 season) as well. Hagelin has only scored one goal and recorded two assists in 25 games this season for Pittsburgh. I think Toronto would also send defenseman James van Riemsdyk ($4.25 million) to Pittsburgh as well. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season as well. van Riemsdyk has scored 12 goals and recorded seven assists in 24 games this season with Toronto.
If that doesn’t work out, I think Pittsburgh could also trade Cole, Hagelin, and/or a draft pick for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins straight up from the Edmonton Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins is owed $6 million for the next few seasons and he is an unrestricted free agent after the 2020-2021 season. He was the number one overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. Edmonton is looking to make some moves and Nugent-Hopkins is rumored to be on the move.
He is only 24 years old and has scored eight goals and recorded nine assists in 24 games so far this season. Nugent Hopkins would excel as the third line centerman in Pittsburgh behind Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Nugent-Hopkins would have wingers like Patric Hornqvist, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Phil Kessel, and/or Conor Sheary to work with.
If Pittsburgh can get Nugent-Hopkins, that would be exceptional. I am not saying that Bozak for Toronto can’t play, but Nugent-Hopkins is the better player and younger. The thing is that the Penguins would still need help on defense if they went in that direction.