Latest on the Penguins and Oilers – November 28, 2017
Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly shopping Ian Cole plus updates on the Edmonton Oilers in your NHL rumor mill.
COLE ON THE BLOCK?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports multiple sources say the Penguins are actively shopping defenseman Ian Cole, who’s been a healthy scratch in their last three games. He’s eligible for unrestricted free agency in July and carries a $2.1 million salary-cap hit this season. Mackey said that number could double on Cole’s next contract, making him too expensive for the Penguins to re-sign.
It’s unclear if a trade is imminent but Mackey said the Pens want to ensure Cole remains healthy while efforts to move him are ramped up. He believes the Penguins are likely looking to bolster their scoring depth, but they could also seek a third-pairing blueliner to replace Cole, who’s had his ups and downs with Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe reports Cole’s agent, Kevin Magnuson, has been involved in the trade talks, suggesting the blueliner “could theoretically have a new contract upon being traded.” It could also make improve Cole’s trade value. If the Penguins don’t get a defenseman in return, Yohe thinks they’ll be left thin on the blueline with Chad Ruhwedel and perhaps Frankie Corrado as their sixth and seventh d-men. He also notes the Pens have too many forwards who aren’t scoring this season and remain weak at center beyond Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Such a move is usually made closer to the trade deadline but Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford evidently feels a potential trade must be made now. It appears he’s more concerned about his club’s offense than his third-pairing blueliners.
Cole’s among the Penguins’ best penalty killers. He leads their defensemen in puck-possession numbers and has a high pain threshold, playing through injuries during the Pens march to the Stanley Cup last spring.
Rutherford could target clubs in need of experienced defensemen, such as the Buffalo Sabres or Toronto Maple Leafs. Whether Cole has sufficient value to land a scorer, however, is another matter. We’ll find out soon enough.
LATEST ON THE OILERS
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie’s appearance on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 discussing the latest trade speculation regarding Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. While Nugent-Hopkins name resurfaced in the trade rumor mill over the weekend, McKenzie expressed doubt that the center is available. He acknowledges perhaps some teams might be calling to express interest. He suggests the Oilers might listen if a rival club offered up a top-pairing defenseman but doesn’t see that happening.
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell suggests the Oilers could be sellers by the Feb. 26 trade deadline if they don’t soon reverse their current fortunes. If that happens, Mitchell sees pending UFAs such as winger Patrick Maroon, Mike Cammalleri, Mark Letestu and Yohann Auvitu as possible rental players. The expected return could be a young winger who can play a top-nine role plus two or three draft picks.
If they trade Nugent-Hopkins, Mitchell feels they could receive a disappointing return “because the value placed on him across the NHL is not commensurate with his skills.” Ryan Strome and Matt Benning could also be available. The Oilers would likely want young, fast NHL-ready players in return.
If they want to shed salary, Mitchell wonders if one of their veterans carrying big contracts and no-trade/no-movement clauses (Milan Lucic, Kris Russell, Andrej Sekera and Cam Talbot) could be convinced to accept a move by the deadline, though in truth he feels the Oilers are likely to retain most or all of them. Moving one or two of them, however, would provide sufficient cap space to retain Nugent-Hopkins and re-sign Maroon.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The month of December could determine what course of action Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli takes in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. As of today, the Oilers are near the bottom of the Western Conference standings but only six points out of playoff contention. If they can string some wins together over the next four weeks, they could rise up the standings and perhaps even get into a wild-card spot. Another month like the last two, however, could kill their postseason hopes and force Chiarelli to shake things up.
Moving pending UFAs is the easy part and I concur with Mitchell’s take on those who fall into that category and what they could receive. Maybe the Oilers wouldn’t get a fair return for RNH but it doesn’t hurt to listen to offers. However, that could be a move that happens in the offseason,when clubs have more cap space and willingness to deal.
Unless the plan with Nugent-Hopkins is simply to shed salary, Chiarelli won’t move him for a lesser return. Strome could be shopped by the deadline unless he picks up his play. Like Strome, Benning is a restricted free agent, but I think Chiarelli might be keen to retain the 23-year-old, who lacks arbitration rights and would be an affordable re-signing.
As for moving a high-priced veteran like those listed by Mitchell, I don’t think that’s going to happen unless one of them demands to be traded. I don’t see any of them asking to leave.