Erik Cole has been on fire lately, with five points in his last five games (3G, 2A). While the Dallas Stars can use his 18 goals on a team looking for offense with number one center Tyler Seguin out, his scoring touch and expiring contract status make him attractive to several teams around the league as they gear up for playoff runs.
With the supply of legitimate top six wingers on the market being limited as teams look at the trade landscape, they might have to overpay slightly to get a guy like Cole. Cole’s scoring touch and decent two-way play (he’s not a Selke contender but he’s not a full liability in his own end either) means a 2nd rounder might not be out of the question for his rental services for a deep playoff run.
Let’s look at the least likely team to make a move for Cole first – the Chicago Blackhawks.
With Patrick Kane reportedly out for 6-10 weeks, the Hawks have a hole in their top six forward set. Cole’s 18 goals could be a nice interim option for the Hawks, who could carry Cole’s cap hit for the remainder of the season with the long-term injured reserve savings on Kane’s cap hit. Cole still has a step and can keep up with the pace the Hawks play at, and slides down later on to provide some added veteran depth on a fairly deep Chicago team.
With Chicago in the same division as the Stars, it’s least likely they’ll look here for that piece and give up assets in return that could, theoretically, come back to bite them later down the road. Chicago also has plenty of prospect depth that could fill a lower spot while someone else slides into the top six.
The Washington Capitals are rumored to be looking for a right winger to play next to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. While Cole typically plays on the left, he’s spent some stints on the right. With all-world talent like Ovi and Backstrom, Cole’s net drive and dirty goal scoring could be a nice melding on the Caps top line and that shouldn’t be a big impact on his game if he plays on the other side for a little while.
The Capitals prospect system is a little lacking in defensive depth, a position Dallas has a surplus in. Could a package of Cole + prospect get more from the Capitals than a draft pick? It would fill a need from them, and the Stars could look at their goaltending depth and try to get a guy like Phillip Grubauer to help strengthen the goaltending depth of the Stars system coming back with a pick.
With Washington sporting a decent amount of depth in goal, there’s a deal here that could help both teams in both the near- and long-term future. It’s just a matter of figuring out pieces going each way. The Caps may not want to part with Grubauer, who has put up decent numbers in Hershey this season (35 GP, 21-10-4, 0.923%, 2.11 GAA). But if we’re in the "overpaying" state of mind, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Stars start with him as a trade piece.
Boston is another team that has been linked to Cole as a potential trade target in the media recently. Dallas and Boston have some history in trades that seem to be working out for both sides (relatively speaking, anyway). Could they do business again here?
With David Krejci out the next 4-6 weeks to injury, the Bruins – who have struggled to score goals at times this season – could use a guy like Cole. They’d also get some amount of cap relief with Krejci on IR for a while, and Cole could work within their current cap structure. Heading into the summer with some contract extensions to handout, and possibly looking at being right up against the cap without any free agency signings, a rental is perfect for the Bruins.
Cole fits into the Bruins style nicely. He’s got a hard nose for the puck and does a lot of the ‘dirty work’ for goals. I’d imagine a package that centers around a 2nd round pick from Boston as the framework of a deal. The Stars don’t currently have a 2nd this summer, as that was dealt to Ottawa in the Jason Spezza deal, so that’d be the minimum the Stars would set their sights on at the trade deadline in the pick department.
Who do you think would offer the best deal for Cole? Is it one of these three teams, or someone else? What would make you ok with a deal sending the Stars’ 3rd highest goal scorer to another team at the deadline?