Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Erik Cole: Spezza Needs You. If Not, Can You Ask Ray?

Suddenly Black Aces has turned into a rumours blog that’s putting Eklund to shame, but at this time of year, even I get sucked in.

So here’s an unsolicited one of my own.

GM Bryan Murray should look closely at bringing Erik Cole in from Dallas to play with Jason Spezza.

The reasons? In the Matt Moulson article below I talked at length about Spezza needing a winger. Everybody’s talking about that. Even Brian 5or6’s Granny is talking about that. So as a fan, you go through the usual suspects like Moulson, Thomas Vanek and Ales Hemsky, but chances are, if something does get done, it will be a name that catches everyone by surprise. Like Oleg “Freakin” Saprykin.

Let me throw Erik Cole into the mill. Remember him? The guy who used to victimize Ottawa with speed and goal-scoring in his prime years?

I’ve always liked Cole over the years, but lately he’s been out of sight, out of mind. Playing over in Dallas, I don’t get to see him much anymore and his stats aren’t exactly forcing us early-to-bed Easterner’s to take much notice.

Then his named popped up in Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts article today – not in connection to Ottawa – but as a player who may be unhappy in Texas. As Friedman noted, Cole’s agent strongly denied that rumour and there was no more elaboration on the subject.

Chances are it really is case closed. Cole has a no-trade clause according to Cap Geek, and with one year left on his deal at $4.5 million (but just $4 million in actual salary), he’s not exactly a deadline rental.

Yet Dallas is a long-shot to make the playoffs in the brutal Western Conference. GM Jim Nill is in his first year at the helm and has barely started to rebuild the team that suffered some tough years under Joe Nieuwendyk. A guy like Erik Cole is not in the long-term plans and a Stanley Cup is not in the short-term plans. Cole has been around a long time and I’m sure he can see what’s happening.

From a purely hockey standpoint, it would tough to see him objecting to a trade. Family and lifestyle issues may stand in the way, but if you dangled the prospect of playing with Jason Spezza in front of Cole, wouldn’t he be at least a little interested in paying more taxes?

Many of you will scoff and say Cole is injury-prone, old (he’s 35) and not even close to the same player he was when he won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. He can’t be worth a $4.5 million cap hit. But how much would he be worth if he was riding shotgun with Spezza? How do you calculate that?

Cole scored 35 goals just two seasons ago with Montreal. He has 14 this season on a fairly bad Dallas team and he’s reached the 20 goal plateau 5 times since 2006.

He’s also left-handed shot, which is what Dany Heatley was (as is Moulson, another reason I thought he could work with Spezza - I'm obsessed with this apparently), and Cole is big (6’2, 212 lbs.) and fast. Coach Paul MacLean could have Spezza flanked by both Cole and Colin Greening, which would be a hulking but skilled line.

Of course, in this imaginary world, the Senators would be on the hook for Cole’s contract next year, but it would essentially replace Milan Michalek’s cap number, who will be leaving this summer as a UFA.

Both players have been injury prone (Cole once broke his back) but have played almost a full slate of games so far this season. If anything, swapping Cole’s deal for Michalek’s next year would work. It feels like the exact same argument I made for Moulson, although at least the Senators know Cole’s cap hit for next season. Moulson’s would have to be negotiated, and could top $5 million. I also get the feeling someone could get Cole for less than what Moulson would fetch. I don’t know that for sure, but it seems logical with what we've been hearing so far.

Cole may not be a perfect fit with Spezza, as he plays the game more like Michalek than he does Heatley, but unless the Senators want to ante up for his Stars teammate Ray Whitney or any other high profile winger, Cole might be a guy who has so far escaped much trade market scrutiny and could interest Murray.

Nill will be looking for younger players and the Senators have a lot of those. Probably too many at this point, particularly on defense and at centre where the Stars aren’t exactly stocked.

Could it work? I’m no Kreskin but it seems to me that letting Spezza waste away without a true scoring winger for the rest of the season is far riskier than what a winger like Cole could possibly bring.

Will it happen? Something will, but a blog about it won’t make anything happen sooner than it should. If it’s Cole, I’ll be stunned, but if it’s no one, I’ll be even more surprised.


Anonymous said...

I'm sold on Moulson. Never thought about the Cole possibility. Maybe.

Please no to Hemsky. He's a nice player, but I don't see it working. He's injury prone. Ray Whitney's too old and making $4.5M. If they go for him, they might as well just trade for Alfie and give him his cash. He's played with Spezza before and we know it works.

How about Brad Boyes? Or even better, let's all bury all the emotional baggage and go get the Heater.

The Amazing Kreskin said...

You're dead meat.