Appreciating The Veteran Presence of New Blue Jackets Defenseman Ian Cole

By Dan Dukart on February 27, 2018 at 2:38 pm
New Blue Jackets defenseman Ian Cole
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen kicked off trade deadline day by flipping a 2020 3rd round pick and minor-leaguer Nick Moutrey for Ian Cole.

At the time (approximately 9:45 a.m. ET), the general consensus was that management had acquired their left-handed defenseman to replace the soon-to-be-dealt Jack Johnson. The rationalization was simple: Johnson and Cole are both left-handed, rugged defensemen with a ton of experience.

Also of note? Both are pending unrestricted free agents (UFA).  

Cole knew he would be traded today. He was told to not even travel to Ottawa, his new team after being dealt from Pittsburgh. That much was predictable; what was unpredictable was that the subsequent trade of Jack Johnson from Columbus never happened.

Cole, like Johnson, is the type of player playoff teams look to add for a run. John Tortorella acknowledged as much when discussing what the addition of Cole means for his club.

Cole isn't going to revolutionize this defense corps. He's a north-south skater, an old-school type with a reliable game. He's logged an average of 17:47 on ice over 56 playoff games in his career. His game isn't all that different from Jack Johnson's, and that's no knock on either player.

There's no secret that the addition of Cole - coupled with the lack of subtraction of Johnson - raises eyebrows. But after examining the current state of the Blue Jackets' blue line, it has some credence. 

First, Kekalainen held true to his word that he wouldn't trade Johnson just to trade him; it had to make sense for the club in the short and long term. He said in press conference that keeping Johnson around was akin to acquiring a rental. The club still has the option to resign Johnson if they come to terms on a new contract.

Second, the old adage that one can never have too many defensemen is especially true in a playoff push. The Blue Jackets are now flush with left-shooting defensemen: Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson, Markus Nutivaara, Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan, Gabriel Carlsson, and now, Ian Cole. 

Worth mentioning is that Nutivaara and Kukan are injured, and while Harrington has been solid, Cole is an upgrade. Carlsson has been stuck in the AHL all season, and while Murray is great when he's in the lineup, it's not a terrible idea to have depth behind him. 

Tortorella echoed that sentiment, saying he'll have a more difficult time making the lineup with Cole (and Johnson) in the mix.

Cole paid instant dividends in a huge 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals, posting a 66.67% CF% (+8) over 14:22 at 5-on-5. He played primarily with David Savard, allowing Johnson to pair with Murray, keeping Seth Jones and Zach Werenski together.

Whether Cole (or Johnson) is re-signed after the season is to be determined. The Blue Jackets were able to acquire a veteran piece for a relatively low price that can help in the final 20 regular season games, and brings valuable playoff experience. 

Cole summed it up his big debut nicely: "No matter what team you're on in the Metro, it's great beating Washington."

This guy's alright.

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