Ian Cole will likely be traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins, soon. The Penguins made Cole a healthy scratch for three straight games to prevent injury and gave his agent, Kevin Magnuson, permission to speak with other teams.
Jason Mackey of the P-G got ahead of the story. Read his report here. (Make sure to support journalism…and us minor leaguers, too).
Despite two consecutive five-goal outbursts, the Penguins are still feasting on the power play and struggling at even strength. Just three of the 10 goals
There are two teams burning cell phone minutes: Montreal and Edmonton. Defense is high on the list for both. It seems that Montreal GM Marc Bergevin has been aggressively kicking tires around the league for over a year and Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton is also dealing with an underperforming team.
Edmonton’s top pairing of Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom have drawn ire in Edmonton, but the Oilers don’t appear to line up well with the Penguins needs. Trade bait Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a finesse player who doesn’t fit the mold for a strong third line center or bottom-6 player. Mark Letestu is a fantastic fourth line center but isn’t ideally suited for a larger role.
Bergevin has more lines in the water than the bass fishing championships. However, the Canadiens don’t have much expendable offense to deal. There has been speculation surrounding Max Pacioretty, but he would seem to cost just a little more than Ian Cole, yes?
Phillip Danault, a 40 point player last season, is the Canadiens de facto top line center playing between Andrew Shaw and Pacioretty. Danault is again on pace for about 40 points (12 points, 24 games) this season. A .5 points per game player seems in the realm of reality for a stalwart defenseman like Cole who brings toughness and quality defense.
(Tell me again why the Penguins are dealing their only defender with a bit of grit who has been great in the playoffs? See Part Two coming later today.)
Could the Canadiens afford to part with Danault for a solid complimentary defenseman? Again, the answer appears to make the Penguins and Habs a poor fit, unless the deal gets much bigger than Ian Cole.
Back to Tyler Bozak
Does Tyler Bozak fit? Pittsburgh Hockey Now was the first to make the Bozak-Pittsburgh connection, back in July. Bozak fits some criteria—The Maple Leafs are forward heavy and defense poor. Goalie Freddy Anderson has routinely been forced to stand on his head.
The Maple Leafs have a few players who could, conceivably, step in as a third line center including Patrick Marleau and William Nylander. According to Leftwinglock.com, Babcock has used both in the middle, occasionally.
Babcock moved Marleau to third line center on November 1 as part of a lineup shakeup which also saw Bozak fall to the fourth line.
This season, Bozak has not yet found a groove offensively. He has just four goals and seven assists in 25 games. Though those numbers are more than the Penguins third and fourth line centers (Riley Sheahan, Greg McKegg) combined.
Bozak rode shotgun with Phil Kessel when the two anchored the Toronto Maple Leafs top line. Further, Bozak wins more faceoffs than he loses and is a positive Corsi player in each of the last three years (52.5%, 51.7%, 51%).
Things have changed and changed again in Toronto since November 1, but Marleau is a capable third line center. And the Leafs have additional options, too.
So–maybe Bozak? Definite maybe.
Bozak makes $4.2 million this season, the last of his contract. Cole’s salary cap hit is only $2.1 million.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Penguins have about $1.2 million of projected salary cap space.
Perhaps Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello would provide a Mike Babcock-Riley Sheahan reunion in order to keep Marleau or Nylander on the wing?
Matt Murray’s health and potential stay on IR could help, ironically.
Jim Rutherford is a stealth operator and the deal the Penguins make will likely involve a player no one saw coming. Justin Schultz and Sheahan are the exceptions. Marcel Goc, David Perron, Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin, are the more typical Rutherford-style deal in which fans and media learn of the new player in a quickly arranged press conference.
Jason Mackey’s excellent reporting detailed that teams are lining up for Cole, which will only serve to increase his value.
The Penguins have granted Cole’s agent permission to speak to other teams indicates the Penguins don’t have a solid target on their radar…or this is a divorce more than a trade.