Is Ian Cole really leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins? Where will he end up playing if he leaves Steel City? Why is he leaving? News recently broke that the Penguins defender has very likely played his last season with the Pens. The last three games of November saw Cole healthy but still scratched from the lineup. Some fans are wondering if he and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had the mother of all of their infamous personality clashes.
While the two have had several disagreements over the years, it’s not likely the reason that Penguins management is letting go of their two-time Stanley Cup winner. Cole’s cap hit this season is about $2.1 million and because he is a two-time cup winner that salary will probably more than double next season. The Penguins just can’t afford him at that price.
The defender will become a free agent at the end of this season so this does not seem like a reason that is due to Cole’s ability to perform on the ice. The Penguins are looking ahead to the future and realize if they keep Cole until the end of the season they will get nothing except a difficult time finding his replacement. In this case, the Pens seem to be making a strategic move so they will at least get something in return for losing Cole, which they would do anyway at the end of the season because of his contract and salary cap.
The Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has recently praised Ian Cole’s ability to perform. Knowing this, the Penguins believe this along with his two Stanley Cup wins will make him a very attractive addition to many teams in the league. Cole’s agent and the Pens management are working together on this and playing nice so this will probably be a short process. No one knows where the center will land but it seems like the top three teams showing the most interest in him are Las Vegas, Colorado and Toronto. One fan-based pole result said that Ian Coles fans believe he will most likely end up playing for Toronto.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking for another player for their roster but they haven’t yet said if they will be looking for another defender. They will be looking for someone who can add some depth to their preferred left-to-right play. The Pens have given Matt Hunwick a three-year deal where he plays fourth left shot. Considering this and also realizing that Chad Ruwhedel has been just about equally Cole’s possession numbers at even-strength (slightly stronger stats in slightly more sheltered minutes) and all of a sudden you have Cole expendable.
All of these things are being considered and discussed then discussed again between Penguins management and all other parties involved. While Pittsburgh fans made Ian Cole a fan favorite, there seem to be too many things that came together at just the right time in the perfect storm to bring this situation to the forefront of managements offices. In the end, there are two things Penguins fans all agree on as they stare into the unknown future of their Stanley Cup champions: wherever Cole lands everyone wishes him happiness and on the Pens end of this deal they all hope Pittsburgh’s management brings someone in that is at least half as talented as Ian Cole.
At this time, Pittsburgh Penguins management, all eyes are on you. The fans of Pittsburgh are smart and they realize that in order to remain a high caliber team then players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin need to stay on the roster. This means the guys performing better on the ice consistently are getting paid a higher salary, leaving little room for some of the other players who will become free agents at the end of the year.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ record so far this year is far from championship caliber to say the least. They have been hovering around the .500 mark recently and that’s with an increase in performance. Management knows they need to make some changes if they want to win a third Stanley Cup in a row. Trading Ian Cole before he becomes a free agent is probably one of many changes the Pens are likely to see in the near future.