The Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly trying to trade 28-year-old defenseman Ian Cole. The Colorado Avalanche just sent two young D-men - Chris Bigras and Andrei Mironov - down to San Antonio, giving them only six healthy defensemen going into Wednesday's game with Winnipeg.
Coincidence? Maybe. But based on my own reporting, I can say that the Avs have some interest in acquiring Cole, a top-six defender on the last two Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh teams. What I don't know: Just how strong that interest is, and whether the phone lines are burning up between Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and Joe Sakic. But if I had to say one way or the other, based on my reporting, I'd say the interest is mild.
On the surface, Cole would seem not to be a fit with the Avs. Not only is he 28 (roughly three years older than the team average right now), he'll become an unrestricted free agent after this season. His current cap hit is $2.1 million, and as a UFA and his career accomplishments, he'd probably double that on the open market.
If the Avs were to acquire Cole, they would seemingly want to have an agreement with him on a contract extension. That would cost a lot of money, though, and the Avs have prospect D-men such as Cale Makar and Conor Timmins who could be ready by next season.
The Avs aren't a good enough team yet to acquire rental players for picks/prospects/regular roster players. The only way this makes sense is if Cole agreed to a long-term extension. But would he really want to do that already, for a team that is still a ways off from being a top Cup contender?
It doesn't seem likely. I would be surprised, therefore, if a deal happened. Then again, in this business, you should never be surprised.
Cole has been a healthy scratch the last three games, though coach Mike Sullivan has been doing verbal backflips trying to convince reporters that's no big deal, just part of the process. But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, citing multiple sources, reported Monday night that the Penguins are actively trying to trade Cole.
About the Bigras and Mironov demotions: It's a tough blow for Bigras, more so for him than Mironov. It seemed like Bigras had finally proven himself enough to stick with the Avs for good, and he started the season playing well. But Jared Bednar seems to have lost some confidence in his game. Maybe this will only be a temporary demotion, but for now, his career has had a setback.
UPDATE: The Avs just recalled Duncan Siemens from the Rampage. So, now they are back to seven healthy D-men. The Cole rumors? I stand by the report, but like I also said, I'd be surprised if a deal happened.