Avalanche earn B-plus for Ian Cole deal

Ian Cole is sure to log substantial minutes on defense with the Avalanche this season. Jay LaPrete, File/AP

The player: Ian Cole, 29, defenseman.

The terms: three years, $12.75 million, with the Colorado Avalanche

Where does he fit in?

Cole -- who was part of the Penguins' back-to-back Stanley Cups -- is steady, if not flashy. He's a left-handed shot, so he could be paired with Tyson Barrie or Erik Johnson if the Avalanche want to form a true top duo. Cole has never cracked the 20-minute-a-night plateau in his career (the closest he came was the 2016-17 season in Pittsburgh, when he averaged 19:49 in 81 games) but could see an increased workload with his new team. Cole has a terrific personality as well, and could emerge as a leading voice in the locker room alongside Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog.

Does this deal make sense?

GM Joe Sakic has said this offseason that he expects the Avalanche will be even younger next season. The GM made at least one exception in the signing of the 29-year-old Cole. With Patrik Nemeth and Nikita Zadorov both undergoing offseason surgeries, Cole is a player Colorado can bank on to start the season. His veteran leadership -- and experience on winning teams -- will help on a team that should incorporate plenty of prospects and youngsters (teenage defenseman Conor Timmins, for example, could make the team out of training camp, while Samuel Girard -- acquired in the mega-Matt Duchene deal -- continues to mature).

In a thin market for defensemen -- after John Carlson re-signed with the Capitals, the leading defender on the market was Calvin de Haan -- offering Cole three years was probably a necessity to fend off other suitors.

Overall grade: B-plus

Overachievers in 2017-18, the bar is set higher for the Avalanche next season. It's going to be hard to match those expectations. A player like Cole helps them get there. The Avs had the cap space to sign a free agent or two, and didn't get an audience with John Tavares. A midtier signing like this makes sense.