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The Colorado Avalanche opened free agency by bolstering their blue line with some veteran help on the back end in the form of defenseman Ian Cole. The contract is a three-year deal for an AAV of $4.25M, $12.75M total.
Cole, 29, finished up his season as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets after starting out with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored seven points (2g, 5a) in 20 games with Columbus and 13 points (3g, 10a) in 47 games with Pittsburgh. He also appeared in six playoff games for Columbus, notching three assists. In terms of offense, it’s the second most prolific regular season of his career, behind the 26 points he registered in 2016-17 while also playing a career high 81 games for the Penguins.
The left-handed Cole brings all the intangibles that NHL front offices love as he was with the Penguins when they won their two most recent Stanley Cups. He played a combined 49 playoff games in those two Cup runs, scoring 12 points (1g, 11a) across the two years.
Cole has been reliably “boring” throughout his career, ultimately finding success as a second-third pairing tweener. For the Avalanche, he helps solidify the depth on a blue line that predictably lost Erik Johnson for meaningful games last season. Keep in mind, this was a team that played Duncan Siemens and David Warsofsky in the playoffs. Siemens has since been let go and Warsofsky is preparing for the second year of a contract that was designed to pay him handsomely for being the good AHL player he is.
His role on the Avalanche will be interesting as youngsters Nikita Zadorov and Sam Girard proved last year to be worthy of meaningful ice time. Patrik Nemeth also had an unexpectedly decent season after being a waiver-wire pickup early in the season. With Nemeth extended a qualifying offer last week and Mark Barberio signed to a two-year contract extension, it would appear the NHL defense is already set barring a trade. Where he ultimately lands on head coach Jared Bednar’s hierarchy will really determine how well this contract turns out.
One factor to consider in this deal is the third year, which should cover the expected Seattle expansion draft in 2020. Cole would very likely satisfy the games played requirements and be the easy candidate for expansion draft exposure when it comes around. Cole’s deal may also have an impact on the contract the Avalanche have been working on with Nemeth, which was originally thought to be a multi-year extension. With Cole, who plays basically the same role as Nemeth but is more effective, now signed, the Avalanche may re-think their approach to Nemeth’s deal and go with a shorter deal.
Below are some fancy stat comparisons of Ian Cole just to get an idea of who he is: