Wild sign Cooke to three-year contract

Friday, 07.05.2013 / 9:50 PM NHL.com

The Minnesota Wild added some grit to their lineup Friday when they signed forward Matt Cooke to a three-year contract.

"He's a player that [Wild coach Mike Yeo] and I know well from our days in Pittsburgh," Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher told the team's website. "He came into the League as a physical, energy-type player, but his game has evolved into a quality two-way player. We look at him as an ideal third-line forward."

Cooke, 34, had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) and 36 penalty minutes in 48 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012-13. He led team forwards with 41 blocked shots, ranked second among team forwards in shorthanded minutes per game at 2:11, and ranked fifth on Pittsburgh with 97 hits.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound native of Belleville, Ontario, added four assists, 35 PIM and led the Penguins with 63 hits in 15 playoff games.

In 2011-12, Cooke recorded 38 points (19 goals) and 44 penalty minutes in 82 games and was the Penguins' nominee for the 2012 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He set career highs in goals and shots (147), tied his career high with four game-winning goals, and posted his second-best point total.

He has 360 points (153 goals), 1,068 PIM and a plus-53 rating in 935 NHL games during 14 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh.

"There are probably a lot of fans [in Minnesota] who might not be too fond of me from my days in Vancouver," Cooke said. "But hopefully I can change their opinions."

He won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009 and has 33 points (13 goals) and 129 penalty minutes in 97 playoff games. He has reached double digits in goals 10 times, and since 2005-06 ranks ninth in the NHL with 1,430 hits.

"We're a team looking for the next step," Fletcher said."Bringing in players who have won and been on good teams will only benefit our organization."

Cooke was selected by Vancouver in the sixth round (No. 144) of the 1997 NHL Draft.

Earlier Friday, Minnesota signed defenseman Keith Ballard to a two-year contract and later traded forward Devin Setoguchi to the Winnipeg Jets.

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