Defenseman Ian Cole signed a three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins today, which was announced by GM Jim Rutherford. A restricted free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season, Cole’s new deal is worth 6.3 million dollars and is a 2.1 million dollar cap hit.
A first round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, Cole was brought in via trade from the St. Louis Blues, who received Robert Bortuzzo and a 2016 sixth-round pick in exchange. The 26-year-old was brought in to improve the Penguins depth and give them some better options in their bottom-six. However, Cole was promoted to top-four duties shortly after arriving, as the team was ravaged by injuries and had insufficient cap space to recall an injury replacement from the minors. He averaged well over 20 minutes a game over the last seven games of the regular season, posting six points and really establishing a name for himself with his new team.
Cole finished the 2014-15 season with five goals and 12 assists in 74 games, but the more notable stat is the eight points he managed in 20 games with the Penguins. Cole also had some strong possession stats, especially in shot attempts, where he was a positive 169, which ranked 26th among defensemen in the NHL who played 60 games or more. He ranked second on the Penguins in shots attempted behind only Kris Letang, who at 260, was among the league leaders despite missing 13 games to injury.
Heading into the 2015-16 NHL season, Cole should provide a stabilizing presence for the Penguins blue line. He is capable of playing top-four minutes, which should help alleviate some of the pressure for young defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin. He’s also affordable at 2.1 million dollars per year, giving the Penguins some cap flexibility to make other moves later.