Staff photo by Chris Seward
At noon Wednesday, Erik Cole was in Ottawa with the Edmonton Oilers.
The last place he could have envisioned himself 24 hours later probably would have been in the Hurricanes' locker room at the RBC Center, having finished a practice and answering questions about being traded back to his old team.
"It was pretty surprising, for sure," Cole said. "We'd gone to the rink and had practice in Ottawa and watching TSN obviously. Nothing had come across and we decided to go to lunch."
The NHL trade deadline had passed. Cole seemed set with the Oilers the rest of the season.
"A half-hour into lunch was when I started getting phone calls and text messages and everything. It's exciting for sure. ... Obviously I loved playing here and loved being a part of this community."
Cole said it was "hard to hide the smile from my face" as he headed out of Ottawa. And why not? He has his home in Raleigh. The Canes are the team that drafted him, that he helped win a Stanley Cup.
For Cole, the transition should be an easy one, Canes coach Paul Maurice said.
"One of the things you worry about when you make a trade with 17 games left, with such a small window to hit this thing right, you worry about how it fits and the chemistry in the room," Maurice said. "He will come in and we won't have any fears about that at all.
"The nice part is we're not bringing him in for leadership. We like where our room is. We're not putting that kind of pressure on him. But at the same time, when you move into the 20-minute range as a forward, you lead because you're on the ice that much."
Cole will jump back on Eric Staal's line, and with Tuomo Ruutu on the other wing will give Staal — and the Canes — two speedy, physical wingers.
"I think it will be fine," Ruutu said. "We played a little bit last season and I thought it went really well. I don't think there's going to be too many adjustments. We're good to go."
That's what Maurice wants from that line — guys on the go, on the rush, keeping opposing defensemen on their heels, attacking the net.
Cole's best asset on the ice?
"Speed," Maurice said. "Speed and the outside move. When you play defense against a guy like that your only option is to give ice. To be able to back that defenseman off will allow (Staal) another foot, foot and a half with the puck, and players like that do a lot of things with it.
"Eric (Staal) plays against the other team's best every night. If you're controlling the puck in the offensive zone, even if you're not scoring, the other team's not ... and that makes life easier."
Speaking of Staal, Cole was his roommate on the road. With Cole gone, Staal has been rooming with Ryan Bayda.
And now? Cole smiled.
"I don't know how that will work out," he said. "I think (Staal) has cozied on in with Bayda.
"I think he enjoys being kind of a room captain now. I would be surprised if he was willing to give up the remote."