Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Rumour Mill: Erik Cole

I came across an interesting rumour today. I would, however, like to preface it with the note that while it is from someone relatively close to the team, it remains simply an unproven rumour. So take it with a grain of salt.

The rumour is as follows: Ottawa sends Antoine Vermette and Joe Corvo to Carolina in exchange for 'Canes forward Erik Cole. Contrary to many rumours that you read online, this one actually seems possible and even realistic.

I'll start on the Sens' end. Cole is a top-six forward that GM Bryan Murray has been looking for, and hasn't been able to find within the system. He is also a pretty solid power-forward, something John Paddock and Murray would both certainly love to have--imagine him on a line with Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson.

However, Ottawa would be giving up some good assets. While there are some who aren't Corvo fans--his occasional defensive gaffs (standing out in my mind is the pass right to Alexander Semin in Ottawa's 4-2 loss Tuesday) being at the forefront of their concerns--the fact remains that he is a pretty significant part of our powerplay. One thing you might notice is Paddock experimenting with Alfie on the point with Wade Redden on the PP, and if that is a success than Corvo's value drops a little. Ottawa's d-corps has also shown Bingo's leading scorer Larry Nycholat to be a solid fifth- or sixth-ranked defenceman, so there would be a body to replace Corvo if he were moved.

The loss of Vermette would be a little different. For a couple of years now Vermette has been a vital part of our penalty kill, and his offensive skills come in handy some games. Without consistent point production, though, some question his worth. Ottawa also has penalty-killing depth in Dean McAmmond and Shean Donovan. Although neither of those two are quite as good on the PK as Vermette, it's possible that his loss could be offset.

From Carolina's perspective, it would solidify the team's depth at the cost of a top-line winger. However, it would be likely that Corvo would quickly climb the depth chart into the third- or fourth-ranked d-man, and Vermette is a natural centreman--something that team could use--and could also play left-wing on their second line.

In terms of salary, it is almost a non-issue. Cole is signed this season and next for $4M each, in real numbers and in cap hit. With the room saved due to Dany Heatley's injury, Ottawa should have no worries about breaking the cap this year. Corvo is making $2.5M this season and $2.75M in each of the next two, and Vermette is making just over $1M this season, but may be due for a pay raise even as a restricted free agent next season--offer sheets may be thrown his way, and he might be looking at between $2-2.5M per season. Factoring in a replacement defenceman (Nycholat) at $500k this season and $600k next year, Ottawa would actually be saving money.

It recently came about that Ottawa was close to acquiring Cole when Martin Havlat was being shopped around; it's not surprising his name has come up again. It remains a rumour, but it's always fun to look at hypotheticals; this is just playing around for now.
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