February 17 2009 07:46PM
There's plenty of debate about whether the Edmonton Oilers should trade Erik Cole, and lots of buzz he'll be dealt to the Boston Bruins, but I'm told that if the Oilers decide to move Cole by the March 4 trade deadline, a likely scenario is he'll get a return ticket to the Carolina Hurricanes.
While Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe, who is as connected as any newspaperman in the NHL, and other scribes in-the-know have written about the possibility GM Steve Tambellini will send Cole to Beantown for prospects, I'm led to believe Cole could again be a Hurricane -- the team he spent six seasons with.
I'm not discounting interest in Cole by the Bruins, who are believed to be offering Vladimir Sobotka and Matt Lashoff, because the guys writing about the possibility are as credible as they come.
Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald wrote today: "Rumours persist that the Bruins will acquire gritty veteran winger Erik Cole from the Edmonton Oilers, with one NHL source saying Cole is telling friends he expects to be a Bruin soon. Most speculation focused on Sobotka and defenseman Matt Lashoff as trade bait for the unrestricted free agent-to-be."
Still, I'm told Carolina is in play.
The Oilers and Hurricanes did business when Kevin Lowe and Carolina counterpart Jim Rutherford did the Cole for Joni Pitkanen swap, and there's every reason to believe Tambellini and Rutherford are talking now.
Cole, as everybody knows, will be an unrestricted free agent this July after earning $4 million this season. I don't see the Oilers making a big pitch to keep him. Even if they do, I don't see Cole accepting it.
So, Tambellini either lets him walk for nothing at the end of the season or gets down to business now. Cole's ties to Tobacco Road aside, a move back to Carolina makes sense.
The Hurricanes just lost forward Justin Williams to a broken hand that'll keep him out at least a month, and Rutherford needs help up front. Cole, despite his offensive struggles here, is a proven commodity on Tobacco Road.
The Oilers, meanwhile, could use help on the back end with Lubomir Visnovsky gone for the season after shoulder surgery and Denis Grebeshkov on the shelf with a high-ankle sprain.
The interesting thing about a potential Carolina-Edmonton deal is I'm not hearing names who'd fill that void, namely blueliners like Dennis Seidenberg and Anton Babchuk. Then again, the prospects being mentioned in the trade with Boston don't offer an immediate fix, either.
For what it's worth, the name I'm hearing is Tuomo Ruutu, who the Oilers could have had in a swap for Jarret Stoll last summer in a deal Lowe passed on before sending Stoll and Matt Greene to Los Angeles for Visnovsky.
Ruutu, 26, selected ninth overall by Chicago in the 2001 Entry Draft, will be a restricted free agent next season. Ruutu, who has scored 16-17-33 and is a minus-5 in 54 games this season, makes $2.25 million.
On the face of it, moving a young player like Ruutu for Cole looks like an overpayment even if Rutherford is confident he can re-sign him, but perhaps there's other names in play here as well.
—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.