EDMONTON – Erik Cole first started hearing that the Edmonton Oilers wanted to trade for him last summer.
The rumour became reality on Tuesday when the Oilers acquired Cole from the Carolina Hurricanes for defenceman Joni Pitkanen.
The 29-year-old winger had spent his entire career in Carolina but is looking forward to getting a fresh start in the Western Conference.
“They’ve had me on their radar for a little while,” Cole said on a conference call. “Now it’s come to be. I’m excited to be going to the Edmonton Oilers.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity and we should have a great team.”
Oilers GM Kevin Lowe spoke highly of his new acquisition’s size and character.
“He’s a wonderful person,” Lowe said. “He’s a big body, skates well, (he’ll) fit into our game plan.”
The Oilers will certainly have a different look after a busy few days for Lowe.
He also acquired centre Gilbert Brule from Columbus on Tuesday in exchange for rugged winger Raffi Torres.
Brule was drafted sixth overall by Columbus in 2005 and has yet to develop into a consistent NHL player. The 21-year-old was born in Edmonton and is looking forward to joining forces with some of the team’s other young players like San Gagner and Andrew Cogliano.
“Being a young guy myself it’s a great fit for me,” said Brule. “I’m very excited to be coming to this team. I think its got a good nucleus of young core players and I think we can build on that this season.”
Lowe acknowledged Brule has had a slow start to his NHL career, but thinks the young forward may hit his stride with the Oilers.
“Gilbert’s a player who was highly touted in his draft year and has come in and has played in the NHL, and has probably not achieved what he’d hoped at this point. But we’ve had pretty good success getting players from other organizations.”
The Oilers have made three trades in a matter of days. They acquired defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky from Los Angeles on Sunday in exchange for forward Jarret Stoll and defenceman Matt Greene.
Cole had 22 goals and 51 points in 73 games for Carolina last season. He leaves the Hurricanes with the third-best franchise total in goals (129) and sixth-best total in points (280).
He was part of the Carolina team that beat Edmonton in a seven-game Stanley Cup final in 2006. Cole returned from a broken neck late in that series but watched Games 3 and 4 from the press box at Rexall Place.
“To sit up top with the other guys that weren’t dressed and watch that from above and watch the atmosphere and the fans – it’s definitely a different perspective,” said Cole. “I don’t think the guys quite realized how intense it was and how great the fan support was.”
He’ll be stepping into his first full-time job in a true hockey market.
The former U.S. Olympian has scored as many as 30 goals in a season and thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Hurricanes. He thanked GM Jim Rutherford and his staff for taking a chance on him.
Ultimately, Cole was prepared to move on.
“I think that sometimes things maybe get a little stale in one city or you get a little too comfortable,” he said. “I’m excited and I’m anxious about the opportunity.”
Brule is coming off a year in which he had just one goal and nine points in 61 games for the Jackets.
He also spent time in the American Hockey League with Syracuse and wants to prove that he can be an effective NHL player.
“I need to work on a few things and get the experience of playing more,” said Brule. “I think it’ll be a good fit for me here, the type of style they play – a fast-paced game.
“It’s going to be a good trade for me. I’m very happy.”
Torres had been with Edmonton since 2004 and was limited to just 32 games last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a game in December.
Pitkanen lasted just one season with the Oilers after coming over in a trade from Philadelphia last summer. He had eight goals and 26 points in 63 games.