Ian Cole, once firmly on the trading block, moved unexpectedly

Ian Cole, once firmly on the trading block, moved unexpectedly
Ian Cole is headed to Ottawa ... for now.
Jason Mackey

Had this occurred in late November, nobody would’ve batted an eyelash.

That’s when Ian Cole was supposed to be traded, when he was a healthy scratch for the first of three occasions, when that alone made zero sense, when the Penguins gave Cole’s agent, Kevin Magnuson, permission to help facilitate a trade.

Only that’s not how this all went down. It’s never that simple with this team.

Cole was a healthy scratch twice more before returning to the lineup Jan. 25 and responded with some of the best hockey of his career.

That’s why the fact that Cole is now an Ottawa Senator feels so weird. Nobody saw this coming, not Cole, not his agent, not his teammates, not fans who quickly expressed their displeasure on social media. Pretty much everyone expected Cole to survive the trade deadline, bushy red beard still here.

“I’ve said it before, there’s nowhere else I would rather play,” Cole said earlier this week. “No team I’d rather play for, no group of guys I’d rather play with.”

Even general manager Jim Rutherford admitted that he expected Cole to stick around.

“He was a good player for us here for a long time,” Rutherford said of Cole. “He helped us win two Stanley Cups. It’s been an up-and-down year this year for him. He’s been in and out of the lineup. He’s handled it like a great pro. I really thought when he went back in the lineup that he was probably here to stay this year.”

Since reclaiming his spot on the left side of the Penguins’ third defense pairing, Cole has been steady and stingy. Cole was on the ice for just six goals-against during five-on-five play while contributing to a penalty kill that’s No. 2 in the NHL since Jan. 1.

“You certainly want to play as well as you can and show people you belong out there,” Cole told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook on Feb. 6. “I don’t think that’s unique to my situation. But,…