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Erik Cole Traded: Analysis for Red Wings and Stars

Erik Cole Traded: Analysis for Red Wings and Stars
Franklin Steele

Forget about the NHL trade deadline. Just about anyone that was on the block has been moved over the last few days. Cross Erik Cole off the list of players left to be traded on March 2, as the Dallas Stars have shipped the veteran forward to the Detroit Red Wings for two prospects and a 2015 second-round pick. Detroit also receives a conditional third-round selection in 2015 along with Cole.

The Red Wings were in need of another forward that could play top-six minutes. Johan Franzen hasn’t played since January 6 and could be done for the year. The team could also be without Darren Helm for a stretch of time. He left Saturday’s contest against the Nashville Predators and is out with an upper-body injury. No timeline is known yet, but Cole provides an insurance for both Franzen and Helm.

Those two aren’t Detroit’s only injured forwards either. Henrik Zetterberg hasn’t played since Stars captain Jamie Benn punched him in the head on February 21.

It’s unclear at this juncture just how much time Zetterberg will miss, but Detroit clearly needed to add another forward ahead of the trade deadline. The lines were starting to get a little thin, and depth is incredibly important come playoff time.

Helm had been seeing time on Detroit’s top line, skating alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar prior to his injury. Head coach Mike Babcock had a handful of options available to him moving forward, but Cole could slot in on the Datsyuk line right away. If that occurs, Detroit’s lines would look something like this sans Helm/Zetterberg/Franzen and post-Cole trade:

Tomas Tatar Pavel Datsyuk Erik Cole
Gustav Nyquist Riley Sheahan Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller Luke Glendening Tomas Jurco
Stephen Weiss Joakim Andersson Teemu Pulkkinen

That’s not a bad group of forwards for the Red Wings, and the team could shake out to look pretty dangerous if all the players can stay healthy. That’s typically not the reality during the postseason, but getting Zetterberg back would be a huge boost and allow Riley Sheahan to slide down a line.

Cole is the kind of veteran forward that General Manager Ken Holland loves to target around the trade deadline. Detroit is a city where many a player has gone to resurrect their careers, but it isn’t like the 36-year-old has been ineffective this season. He has been scoring at the same rate as forwards like Marian Gaborik, Matt Duchene and Ondrej Palat, and his 18 goals is only one shy of cracking the top-50.

That’s not to say that Cole is going to land in Detroit and provide the same kind of pop that Duchene would. He just isn’t quite as washed up as some pundits would believe. Cole is quicker than a lot of people realize, and he has a big frame that could do some damage on Detroit’s lethal power play.

He also has a Stanley Cup ring, but hasn’t seen much success in the postseason since scoring six times in 2001-02. In fact, he hasn’t scored a playoff goal since then. That’s a 13-year drought the Red Wings are hoping he can break.

Cole

Erik Cole hasn’t scored a playoff goal since 2002 with the Hurricanes.

The Red Wins had to give up two prospects in the deal, but both were stuck within the system. First there is defenseman Mattias Backman. The former fifth-round pick started 2014-15 in the AHL, but grew irritated over a perceived lack of playing time in the minors. Backman spoke about his aggravation with the process back in December, and Peter J. Wallner captured these comments for MLive.com:

I play almost four years in Swedish league and played on national teams, so it’s kind of weird you don’t play here. In my opinion, the Swedish league is much better than here. But it’s like different hockey, so it’s hard to compare. You have to get used to the smaller rinks.

He was eventually sent back to Linkopings of the Swedish Elite League, where he’s notched 16 points in 23 games. Backman is a decent prospect, but it seemed clear that the relationship with Detroit was all but shot. Odds are good he’ll be excited to join a Stars team that features John Klingberg and Patrik Nemeth—two players he played with during the 2012 WJC tourney.

Mattias Janmark is also developing his game in Sweden and is billed as a energetic two-way forward, but he also has shown some strong offensive instincts. There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about the 22-year-old prospect here in North America, but Janmark has already developed a good reputation overseas. He has decent upside, but needs to get a bit stronger on the puck to play his game on the smaller rinks in the AHL or NHL.

Like most trades around this time of year, the move makes sense for both sides. The Red Wings moved two prospects that had virtually no future in the organization for a top-six winger to help ease the loss of Zetterberg and Helm. Cole probably doesn’t figure into Detroit’s future, but the Stars aren’t going to make the playoffs and beefed up their prospect pool a bit with this move.

Don’t forget that Dallas GM Jim Nill is from the Red Wings organization, so he likely has more than just a passing familiarity with Janmark and Backman.

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Franklin Steele
@FranklinSteele

Franklin Steele has been watching and playing hockey since the age of six. He’s written for a variety of NHL websites around the web, and now is the director of content and growth for TodaysSlapshot.com. A lot of folks say they are living the dream sarcastically. He is not among them. Feel free to email him or Tweet at him with any questions, comments or concerns.

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