Minnesota Wild announced this afternoon that they swapped defensemen with the Colorado Avalanche, the first trade for the Wild since the 2020 NHL Draft.
The trade yesterday has nothing to do with the loss to John Gibson and the Anaheim Ducks two days prior. However, with that being said, this is a testament to Wild GM Bill Guerin’s willingness to move anyone at any point if a move arises that benefits his team.
It is another reminder – a critical one – that every single player on the Wild has to give it their all if they want to stay in Minnesota. This is a transition season for the Wild, which makes the NHL Trade Deadline even more appealing for a team that so desperately needs to build their team through the draft.
Not only does Bill Guerin know Ian Cole from his days in Pittsburgh but Nick Bonino was a part of that roster as well. They were apart of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
The Wild signed Greg Pateryn through free-agency in the summer of 2018. He has been a strong defensive player for the Wild until last season when he missed most of the season due to injury. He looked decent so far this season and with Colorado trying to shed money, it is not a surprise they would want to make a deal like this.
On the Wild’s side of things, there is no doubt why this makes sense. Both Cole and Pateryn are on the final year of their deals, and frankly, the Wild wouldn’t pass up a trade where they get the better defenseman.
Pateryn makes $2.25M AAV and Cole makes $4.25M AAV, but the Avalanche are retaining $800K.
Ian Cole ranked 31st in goals for per hour, 27th in goals against per hour, 31st in expected goals for per hour, 34th in expected goals against per hour, and 20th in Corsi against per hour among all NHL defensemen in even-strength in 2019-20.
That really stands out for a defenseman like Cole.
Cole is a fantastic two-way second-pairing defenseman who excels at both ends of the ice. He’s above-average offensively and provides a ton of defensive value too. The soon to be 32-year old defenseman recorded 4 goals, 22 assists, and 26 points in the 2019-20 campaign.
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He averaged just under 18 minutes last season mostly in a third-pairing role. Not only does Cole bring his veteran leadership and Stanley Cup-winning pedigree, but he also brings the physical component similarly to Pateryn.
Looking at a value statistic like Evolving-Hockey’s wins above replacement metric (a single number that represents a player’s overall contributions offensively and defensively) he provided 1.6 wins which rank 29th among defensemen, which is very impressive. When looking at expected wins above replacement which is better for measuring defenseman, Cole ranks 46th in this regard which is still equally impressive.
According to PuckIQ, he played against elite competition 28.5 percent of the time which is a hefty amount given his role. Although Cole mainly played a bottom-pairing role, he was not sheltered. The usage element provides the Wild confidence that they can deploy all three defensive pairings at any given time.
It felt impossible for the Wild to strengthen their already top defensive core, but Bill Guerin found a way to do just that. It will be interesting to see how much this changes the offensive side of things given Pateryn offered no offensive value.
While his transition game isn’t strong, the important thing to note is his strong entry-defense. He excels in shot contributions and has an ability to control entries defensively, which is a strong attribute and a valuable asset for the Wild.
When Cole was on the ice in the 2019-20 season, the Avalanche generated more shots than the average NHL team. While this doesn’t show the quality of the shots, it is still a valuable tool to see how a player changes the volume of shots taken by a team when the player is on the ice.
When he was on the ice, the Avalanche shot more than league average in the middle of the ice and from the right side of the point which is displayed by the red hot spots in those areas.
As shown in the neutral zone, the Avalanche’s offense generated shots with an average danger of 2.56 expected goals per hour which was 2 percent higher than the league average rate.
In regards to in front of the net, the Avalanche generated loss shots than league average. This isn’t overly surprising since they shoot more than league average from the point and middle of the ice. They have high-caliber shooters too which explains why this hasn’t become an issue for them.
On the flip side, looking at his impact on the shot volume defensively shows part of the picture of why he is so valuable defensively. The Avalanche’s suppression of shots increases when he’s on the ice. The opposing teams generate fewer shots than average right in front of the net and in the middle of the ice.
As shown in the neutral zone, the Avalanche’s defense allowed fewer shots than average. The opposing teams generate an average danger of 2.31 goals expected goals per hour which is 8 percent less than the league average rate.
While shot volume is important, shot quality is just as important. The models behind the expected goals do take into account shot quality and goaltending which makes these visualizations even more important.
The Bottom Line
It is imperative to include that it is probably not realistic to expect these same results from Cole this season. Still, it does prove he’s still a reliable and capable defenseman.
Another important factor likely behind the trade was that Cole would be way more valuable to a contender than Pateryn would be if the Wild wish to make a trade deadline trade. If not, a short-term deal would be smart given how reliable he is and the fact he is still a quality NHL defenseman.
With the addition of Ian Cole, it is difficult to make an argument against the Minnesota Wild having the league’s best defensive core.
He will be available to play in Wednesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks per Michael Russo.