Cole disappointed to go

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Erik Cole thought he was staying.

And he wanted to stay.

His teammates wanted him to stay.

And when the trade deadline came and went and he hadn't been dealt, he thought he was free and clear, able to focus all of his attention to the Oilers' stretch drive.

Then the phone rang.

Minutes later he was cutting short his lunch and racing back to the hotel to pack his bags and say his goodbyes.

'SURPRISING' CALL

"It was a little surprising after speaking with you guys at the rink earlier today," said Cole, who talked at length about his fondness for Edmonton and the Oilers after their practice yesterday morning, about two hours before the deadline.

"Then we got back here and 3 o'clock (eastern) had passed and we went and grabbed some lunch. We said 'Hey, we didn't make any trades.' And, sure enough, as soon as we sat down my phone started ringing and we heard the news."

The four-team deal, so convoluted it took hours after the deadline for the NHL to finalize the paperwork, totally blind-sided the 30-year-old winger. He knew he was a UFA in the summer, and he heard his name bandied about in rumours, but he thought the Oilers would keep him around for the most important 19 games of the season, and, if all went well, the playoffs.

"I'm a little surprised by it, for sure, given where we are in the standings and what kind of situation we were in," he said, adding he wishes he could have made himself a lot harder to trade. "I'm a little disappointed that things didn't work out here the way I'd envisioned or I'd hoped, but at the end of the day they needed to make sure they're looking after their assets."

It was a bit of a culture shock, going from Carolina, the only NHL team he'd ever played for, where hockey is sometimes an afterthought, to Edmonton, where the sport is practically a religion. But he loved being an Oiler.

"It was fun," he said. "It was a fun team to play on, to play with the young guys especially, they're quite a crew. It's a great room in there. It was great to go to the rink everyday and see the guys and just be a part of things."

PICKING UP STEAM

Cole started slowly when he came to Edmonton but had been picking up steam since the all-star break, scoring four goals in his last seven games.

"I was just upstairs with Craig MacTavish and Steve Tambellini and we talked about things. It's a little disappointing, you feel like maybe you didn't perform up to what was expected, but Mac had said there was a feeling out process between the two of us at the beginning of the year, which there definitely was, getting used to him and his tendencies and vice versa.

"After Christmas they felt I was playing a much better brand of hockey and had my game where it needed to be for our team to be successful."

But they thought getting Ales Kotalik and Patrick O'Sullivan was too good to pass up. So Cole takes his game back to Carolina, where the Canes are also fighting for their playoff lives.

"For me it should be a pretty easy transition," he said. "It might be a little strange at first, but it's a place that's very familiar. I have a lot of respect for (head coach) Paul Maurice, a lot of loyalty, too. He's the guy who gave me my first opportunity to play in this league."


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