DETROIT – The Red Wings dealt Erik Cole a healthy helping of heartache in 2002 eliminating the rookie forward and the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup finals.
Now, nearly 13 years since that five-game series, the veteran hopes happier times are on the horizon.
The Red Wings acquired the veteran left winger from the Dallas Stars one day prior to the NHL’s trade deadline, which is set for Monday at 3 p.m. EST.
In return, the Wings sent two Swedish prospects – defenseman Mattias Backman and center Mattias Janmark – along with a second-round pick to the Stars. Detroit also acquired a conditional third-round pick in the deal, which goes back to the Stars should Cole play in 50 percent of the playoff games and the Wings reach the Eastern Conference finals this spring.
“It’s definitely one of those teams that has (an) aura about it,” Cole told TSN 1050 Radio in Toronto Sunday night. “It’s such a great history and so many great players have played there. We lost to them in the ’02 finals at the time it was such heartbreak, so I haven’t had super-fond memories of that building since that night. Hopefully going in there and being part of the organization, I’ll make some happy memories.”
By getting Cole, the Red Wings added depth up front should Johan Franzen (concussion) not return this season. Darren Helm is another question mark following Saturday’s game when he suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of his injury which occurred early in the first period in Nashville.
With the way the team has performed over the last two months, there hasn’t been a sense of desperation as the trade deadline approaches. Earlier in the year, coach Mike Babcock voiced a desire for an offensive-minded defenseman with a right-handed shot. But as Alexy Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet continue to development and show tremendous growth, the Wings seem less interested in pursuing a veteran blue-liner, especially if the cost to acquire that player is inflated.
The Wings are quite content with adding the 36-year-old Cole, who is now the second oldest player on the Wings’ roster. Only Pavel Datsyuk, by 109 days, is older than the Oswego, N.Y., native. But he’ll be a good addition to either the Henrik Zetterberg or Riley Sheahan lines, and should the productivity of some of the younger forwards sputter down the stretch and into the playoffs he can hopefully provide a spark.
Cole, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, has missed four games this season, three to an undisclosed upper-body injury (Jan. 27 – Feb. 2) and one for an illness (Jan. 10). Otherwise, he was fairly productive during his third season with the Stars, especially of late, registering points in five of his past six games, totaling three goals and six points, and nine points over the last 10 contests. His 18 goals and 33 points is his most-productive season since the 35 goals and 26 assists he had with Montreal in 2011-12.
|Erik Cole |
With Dallas, Cole has been an even-or-plus skater in 27 of his last 30 games dating back to mid-December, posting a plus-10 rating over that stretch.
The Wings’ cost to get Cole wasn’t astronomical. It cost them two prospects, who in all likelihood not crack the Wings’ lineup for years to come, mainly because of the wealth of talent stacked ahead of them in Grand Rapids and Detroit.
The 22-year-old Jarmark was a third-round pick in 2013. Last spring, he played in eight regular-season and playoff games for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings’ minor-league. This season he has 13 goals and 36 points in 53 games for Frölunda.
Backman, 22, was a fifth-round draft pick in 2011. Over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-2 blue-liner played in 30 combined games for the Griffins. However, he wasn’t satisfied with his playing time and returned to Sweden after only 18 games with the Griffins this season. Backman, who has been on loan to Linköping in the Swedish Elite League, has four goals and 16 points in 23 games this season.
As far as the deadline goes, Babcock said he did what he does every year at this time, he puts together his wish list and leaves it up to general manager Ken Holland and the pro scouting staff to do the rest.
“It’s between the pro scouts and the general manger to weigh the costs and the help now and the damage later,” Babcock said. “I just think like a coach, so I try not to worry about that. I try to live right here, right now and the present. This is where my job’s much different than Kenny’s job. And it’s the same as the last day in training camp. I just want to win tomorrow and he wants to build an organization. So these are hard decisions. We like winning, we like winning now, but we like winning every year. We’re kind of greedy that way. Hard decisions.”
Cole told the Toronto radio station that he learned of Sunday’s trade as he prepared for pregame warmups in Dallas. The Stars were hosting Anaheim at American Airlines Center.
“I was told before the game that I wasn’t going,” Cole said, “and then a little while later they told me I’d been traded to Detroit. It’s a chance to go to a team that’s in the playoffs and has a chance to go on a good run here in the spring and hopefully win a Cup.”
Cole was part of the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup championship in 2006 when they knocked off Edmonton in a seven-game series.
Cole played for the U.S. in the 2006 Turin Olympics alongside former Red Wings Mathieu Schneider, Mike Modano, Mike Knuble, Brian Rafalski, Chris Chelios and Derian Hatcher.
Cole also represented the U.S. at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships in Austria and Russia, respectively.
The Red Wings will be the fifth team for the 6-foot-2, 205 pound Cole, who was Carolina’s third-round pick in 1998. He also played for Edmonton in 2008-09. It’s the fourth time he’s been traded, the third time during the season.
“It’s the nature of the business and the sport, all sports,” said Cole, who has 262 goals and 526 points in 881 career games. “I’ll spend the next couple of days here turning the page and focus on what my role is going to be in Detroit.
“You hear so many great things about how the organization and the coaching staff handles their players and all the accolades. They’ve had so much success and they have a great playing staff. It should be a great experience.”