In one of the least surprising trades in recent memory, the Hurricanes have traded Erik Cole to Edmonton for defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
The Canes hope Pitkanen, a 24-year-old restricted free agent, will give them another puck-moving defenseman and were willing to move a forward to get that player.
Cole, in the final year of his contract, was the most expendable -- and marketable -- of Carolina's forwards, but his departure deprives the Canes of his unique set of skills.
More to come later.
UPDATE, 6:52 p.m.: An emotional Cole was playing golf with Justin Williams when Mike Commodore called to tell him his parents had a room to rent in Edmonton. Then he saw a missed call on his phone from the RBC Center. Just like that, he was gone.
“The friendships and everything make this tough,” Cole said. “The good news is it’s during the summer, so we have some time. If this were midseason, I’d be packing my bags and catching a flight. At least we can take our time and talk about everything.”
Cole and his wife are upstate New York natives, so there's going to be some culture shock involved with the move to Edmonton, although Cole quickly found a bright spot.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for me and my career,” Cole said. “It will give my family a different look at winter. We come from cold-weather places and we’ve wished we could go home for one or two days at Christmas and let our kids experience snow. I’m excited about that.”
As for the trade in general, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said getting Pitkanen was worth the cost in losing Cole, who has one year left on his contract at $4 million.
“We had a good team that missed the playoffs and shouldn’t have,” Rutherford said. “We needed to change our defense. Now we’ve done that. We think it will work. We hope it will work. … I feel pretty good about the changes that we’ve made. Unfortunately, we had to let a good player go.”
For his part, Pitkanen is excited about the change.
“It was very exciting to find out I was headed to Carolina,” Pitkanen said. “I’m pretty happy. I remember playing against them when I was in the east with the Flyers and I always liked the Hurricanes and how they played.”
Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe on Cole: "He has a big body, he skates well, he will fit into our team scheme — and it's important when we make deals for guys that there can be good chemistry. We have a good corps here and we want to make sure we do the right thing. We hope we've achieved that.
"The fact that he's in the last year of his contract is not a bad thing. Quite often players are highly motivated. This just gives us a year to look at him and certainly we'll have all the resources to sign him if he does have a good year but that's quite a ways down the road."
More from Cole...
On the trade rumors: “I give Kevin Lowe a lot of credit,” Cole said. “He knew Rutherford was interested in Pitkanen so he went out and got him. A year later, he’s getting the guy he wanted.”
On his memories of playing in Carolina: “That entire ‘02 Cup run will stick with me. How can it not?” Cole said. “That was the first building block for everything here. It really started to show how exciting it can be here when the team is winning and playing well.”
On going to the Oilers: “I don’t plan on showing up the first day with my Stanley Cup ring on, I can tell you that,” Cole said.
More from Pitkanen...
On being involved in trade rumors: “I know there’s a lot of talk and that stuff, and that’s OK,” Pitkanen said. “I know this is how things work. There’s not a lot you can do.”
On how long it took him to hear from friend Tuomo Ruutu: “About 40 minutes. Not even — more like 20 or 30.”
More from Rutherford...
On the deal: "We appreciate and we thank Erik for what he’s done from a playing point of view and what he’s done in the community. At the same time we have to change our team. We set out to change the makeup of our defense and this trade is going to dramatically change our defense."
On contract negotiations with Pitkanen, a restricted free agent: "I think the negotiation will get a lot more serious later today or tonight or tomorrow. We’ll work hard to get a contract done as soon as we can."
On his conversation with Pitkanen: "He’s very excited about it. When we were doing our homework on him over the last couple of months one of the things come up about a week ago was he was friends with Ruutu. We did not know that, but when i talked to him it was one of the first things he said."
"We wanted to make our defense bigger and younger and more mobile. If you go back to the defense we started last season with and the one that we’ll start this season with, it’s going to be dramatically different."
On his conversation with Cole: "He was certainly very disappointed and set back. We said what we should have said to each other and I’m sure we’ll have future conversations when the emotion dies down, but it was a tough call to make."
On Cole: "He’s been a really good player for us, a power forward who gave us great speed. He could open the game up with one of his rushes and he’s just been a good player."
On Carolina's interest in Pitkanen: "Really over the last year we watched him a lot closer knowing there may be the possibility of a trade. I know people have different opinions of him, maybe that he’s underachieved a little bit at times, but when you’re picked in the top four or five of the NHL draft there are very high expectations. Aside from the high expectations, I’m not sure he’s underachieved a lot.
"He’s not going to be 25 until September. That’s really at the age these defensemen should mature into the players they’re going to be. Going into this year we’ll have three first-round pick defensemen selected by other teams that are just coming to the age of their maturity when they should come into their prime. That’s Babchuk, Pitkanen and Gleason. …
"(Pitkanen) can really skate. He can handle the puck, he can pass the puck. he’s good on the point on the power play. It’s going to take pressure off him and (Joe) Corvo because we have two guys who can play the point on the power play. He can play a lot of minutes. He’s big. He takes up a lot of space. He does a lot of things. With the situation we were in with Glen Wesley and Hedican moving on this year, it was important to get a top guy like him."