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Penguins Making Mistake with Ian Cole



The trade drama is mounting around one of the colorful characters in the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room. Ian Cole has been a healthy scratch for three games to preserve his health while the team and his agent seek a trade. If and when a trade happens, the Penguins are making a mistake.

Cole is both the lowest paid defenseman on an otherwise expensive blueline corps and a defender with skills unique to the Penguins. Cole brings a tough element to the game and has been very good as the counter-balance to offensive defenseman Justin Schultz.

Despite mixing and matching defensive partners this season, Cole has yielded the least offensive chances of the Penguins defenseman.

According to, Ian Cole leads the team in all shot suppression categories. In 20 games, Cole has allowed only 122 shots against. Contrast that against Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang who have yielded over 200, with a few more games played.

Cole’s Scoring Chances Against (135), and High Danger Scoring Chances Against (55) also lead the crew (per game average). Second best in all categories is Chad Ruhwedel, who has 155 shots against in 21 games.

Matt Hunwick, in just 11 games has been on the ice for 114 shots against. Yikes.

The Penguins are about to lose a gritty, shot blocking, stay home defender, who makes half as much money as his contemporaries. Cole plays the puck simply and does not turn the puck over. He was outstanding in each of the Stanley Cup runs. His battered body rivaled that of Nick Bonino.

Perhaps it isn’t Cole who should be on the trading block. Perhaps the Penguins should consider moving one of the higher priced defensemen who has been part of the Penguins defensive woes which have existed for over a year.

Something just doesn’t make sense here.

Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta are fine NHL defenders. However, they have been victimized when the Penguins do not dominate the puck. They’ve also not shown an ability to help change that dynamic. Neither has Cole, however, his lower salary and superior shot suppression also mean when opponents are playing with the puck, it’s Cole who is most able to defend.

It would be easy to speculate about off-ice dynamics or demands. I can tell you–Ian Cole is one of the most open and forthright players in the locker room. If there was an unsolvable rift between he and the coaching staff, it likely would have been difficult to hide.

Cole, a free agent after this season, clearly was last in line for a payday. The Penguins dished full value to Dumoulin and are also paying Maatta a healthy sum, over $4 million. Paying both Maatta and Dumoulin over $4 million has squeezed the Penguins salary cap, but not delivered commensurate results.

Lowly paid Chad Ruhwedel at $650,00 is outperforming both. Unfortunately, Ruhwedel is slight. At 5′-11″ and 191 pounds, he was solid in the playoffs, but not necessarily able to eat big minutes or avoid being physically overmatched. At 27 years-old, his play has improved further this year, and he is easily one of the Penguins better defenders.

Unfortunately, so is Ian Cole.

Big Moment

It’s a big moment for the Penguins. They do not possess many trade chips. Whether it was forced upon them or their own choosing, now is their opportunity to fill a need. A bottom-6 winger who can score? A third line center? (Once Riley Sheahan stops playing with Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel, his offensive statistics will again plunge).

There are several teams looking for defensemen. Looking hard.

The Penguins would have been better served quietly making one of their more highly paid commodities available. On reputation, contract certainty and potential, Dumoulin and Maatta could fetch a similar or greater return than Cole but also grant General Manager Jim Rutherford more cap space.

Curious moments. If and when the Penguins deal Ian Cole, unless the return is significant, it will be a mistake.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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4 years ago

Pens are not making a mistake. Trading him now while he can yield a return if a smart move by Rutherford. You’d bitch to high hell if he let Cole for nothing after the season

4 years ago
Reply to  Matt

Sorry. Pens are making a big mistake just like they did when they sign Inconsistent Lost Connor Sheary before a 3C during the off season.. they made a mistake by signing Hunwick as well ..for what??? He is a left defenseman.. Pens didn’t need a left defenseman .. Line parings could have been Dumo-Letang Shultz-Cole Maatta-Rudweedel Yes Its a business at the end you Trotman and Corrado as extra D They are doing him dirty in this situation.. Point Blank..He is a scapegoat for them.You don’t do that to your solid gritty defenseman that suppose be important to your team..… Read more »

Del Scott
Del Scott
4 years ago

Is it possible the Penguins are “quietly” listening to offers for Maatta or Dumoulin?

4 years ago

One would think that they could make a better run for third straight cup this year with Cole; however, maybe the Penguins brass doesn’t think this team has a legitimate chance and want to reshape the team for another run starting next year, especially given their lack of goaltending depth. It should be an interesting next few months starting with what they get back for Cole.

4 years ago

Nice article. The Pens are making a really big mistake and it baffles me really hurt.. He is very underrated and great solid tough defenseman.. i rather see Brian Dumoulin go than him because Brian has been the big issue of the Pens bad defense this season along with Letang in which I want him to go far away from the Pens… Inthink they should keep him.. Maybe try a cheap off season deal later on.. Dan… Do you think they should let Brian Dumoulin go?!?!

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