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Tuesday Mailbag: potential Cole trade destinations, McKegg more suited for AHL, mac and cheese not a Thanksgiving side

This week’s mailbag discusses where Cole might end up and who the Pens would receive in return, McKegg’s struggles, and mac & cheese getting served a big fat L.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, folks. Nice to see you again. You know the rules by now, so let’s just get to it, yeah?

First and foremost, I want to thank the very intelligent people who voted that mac and cheese isn’t a quintessential Thanksgiving side dish. My faith in humanity is temporarily restored.

As for the other 154 of you...I’m not mad exactly. It’s more that I’m disappointed and feel so sorry for you all. Be better. Moving on!

We finally got an answer for the three healthy scratches of Ian Cole in a row by Mike Sullivan. Per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and reported Tuesday night by multiple sources, active trade talks have been confirmed surrounding the two-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman. Pittsburgh gave Cole’s agent permission to speak to other teams about a trade Tuesday night as well.

It was a little odd to see Cole, who’s probably the team’s third or fourth best d-man and a guy that usually plays well, as a healthy scratch the first time around. To have now seen it three times in a row, it’s almost too obvious it’s because of trade negotiations. Though the move isn’t imminent or even a real thing at the moment, the reason for doing this is to keep him healthy as the trade gains some heat.

Cole, who’s currently in the prime of his career, has played quite well this year, making him a very attractive option for other teams. It’s exemplified in how many GM’s have a hand in shopping for a guy like him right now. In fact, there are sources confirming that several teams are deep in negotiations for the 28-year-old.

Cole is currently at a $2.1 cap hit, and with this being his final year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent (UFA), it’s evident he’ll become too expensive for the Penguins to keep after the season ends. In fact, it’s quite likely Cole will get paid double what he does now in 2018-19 and beyond.

So what does this mean for the Penguins? Who is Jim Rutherford looking to get in return for him? What can we expect to see leave along with Cole? Who will fill his role on defense? These are all questions we can only speculate at this time.

Chad Ruhwedel will probably step up in Cole’s place. He’s a gritty dude who throws his body around a lot – he currently has 33 hits and 16 blocks.

But here’s the thing: Pittsburgh still desperately needs a true third-line center. Yes, that’s right. You all know it. While the Riley Sheahan trade did happen, he’s more suited on the fourth line, and Greg McKegg should be playing in the AHL right now, but we’ll get into that later.

So what guy would be talented enough to fill the 3C but still only be around $2 million? This is where it gets tricky, but I have a list of options I’m mulling over.

The first one is Ryan Strome, a decent player working for the struggling Edmonton Oilers. He costs only $2.5 million, has 11 points (four goals, seven assists), and has a Corsi For percentage of 58.2%.. He’s also a right-handed shot, which can add a ton of depth down the middle of Pittsburgh’s roster.

Second is Alex Galchenyuk. He has a $2.8 million cap hit and the Penguins currently have roughly $2 million in cap space. Cole leaving would open up a slot for the Canadien to slip into. Galchenyuk only has 10 points (five goals, five assists) on the season, but that’s more due to Montreal misusing his talent more than anything and not to be looked that far into.

Another, less likely option is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, also from the Oilers. The 24-year-old has a had a sporatic season so far, but he’s been performing a little better lately and could be a nice addition for the Penguins. He currently boasts 17 points (eight goals, seven assists) and has a CF% of 53.2. Only problem is that his cap hit is $6 million, which might be too pricey. But if Rutherford throws in a couple draft picks too, Edmonton might take the bait to build around its franchise guy Connor McDavid. You know, since he took that massive pay cut over the summer hoping for moves like that. We make jokes!

Honorable mention picks/interested parties include Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens, as we’ve already reported, Florida Panthers’s GM Dale Tallon, or potentially someone from the Dallas Stars, because why not.

I’m curious what y’all think, so comment below who you think would be a great (and realistic) trade get for Ian Cole because I’m not all that great on speculation.

Hell yeah, Snipe Show. The Greg McKegg experiment was cute and all at the beginning of the season when he was actually doing things, but the guy has four points in 26 games and that’s just...not good. He needs to be sent back down to the AHL, there’s no question about that. Carter Rowney’s back and moves are about to be made in Rutherford’s favorite month of the year (December) to make trades. It’s been real, Greg. Have a cold one on us.

The Penguins have played an excessive amount of games in the past few years, especially with the last two extending all the way into June. When you’re playing that intensely and competitively for 164 total games, it takes a toll on your body. When you’re playing in a schedule riddled with back-to-backs with tired legs against extremely good rested teams, fatigue is definitely going to set in.

I think that’s where the Penguins were at with the difficult game streak they just charged through a couple weeks ago. But now, save some shoddy defensive play, Pittsburgh’s starting to get its rhythm back.

So yeah, the team may have dealt with a back-to-back championship hangover, but the Gatorade and Pedialyte seem to be flowing now. They’re getting it together as each game passes.

Make sure you check our Twitter @Pensburgh for another opportunity to submit mailbag questions.