After putting the pen to paper on a two-year deal with defenseman Keith Ballard this morning, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher brought another new face to the Wild by signing free agent forward Matt Cooke to a three-year contract this evening.
"He's a player that (Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo) and I know well from our days in Pittsburgh. He came into the league as a physical, energy-type player, but his game has evolved into a quality two-way player," Fletcher said. "We look at him as an ideal third line forward."
Cooke, 34, tallied 21 points (8-13=21) and 36 penalty minutes (PIM) in 48 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. He led team forwards with 41 blocked shots, ranked second among team forwards in shorthanded minutes per game at 2:11, ranked fifth on Pittsburgh with 97 hits and won the team’s Edward J. DeBartolo “Community Service” Award for his time and effort working on community and charity projects. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound native of Belleville, Ont., added four assists, 35 PIM and led the Penguins with 63 hits in 15 playoff contests.
The left wing can kill penalties and isn't afraid to lay down to block shots when shorthanded.
"It's a part of the game I take great pride in," Cooke said about playing shorthanded.
In 2011-12, Cooke recorded 38 points (19-19=38) and 44 PIM in 82 contests and was named 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 the second-best point total of his career while spending little time on the power play.
He has notched 360 points (153-207=360), 1,068 PIM and a plus-53 rating in 935 career NHL games during 14 seasons with Vancouver, Washington and Pittsburgh.
He won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. One of the most underrated parts of his game has been his touch around the net, as has reached double digits in goals 10 times in his career.
"He's a guy that has scored an average of nearly 15 goals per season over the last five years," Fletcher said.
Since 2005-06, Cooke ranks ninth in the NHL with 1,430 hits. He has recorded 33 points (13-20=33) and 129 PIM in 97 career playoff games.
After the Wild made the playoffs for the first time in five years last season, it looks to make a deeper splash in the postseason and Cooke will bring Stanley Cup Playoff experience to the roster.
"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."
Off the ice, Matt and his wife, Michelle, established The Cooke Family Foundation of Hope as a non-profit foundation in 2006. The Foundation provides opportunities and assistance to registered charity organizations within Canada. The Foundation’s efforts focus on those organizations that provide assistance to individuals faced with health, financial and emotional life challenges.
Cooke represented Canada at the 2004 World Championship and the 1998 World Junior Championship. He was originally selected by Vancouver in the sixth-round (144th overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.
Cooke came into the league as a physical player, one who often agitated opposing fan bases, a fact not lost on the forward. However, the forward has adjusted his game to fit the rule changes and tried to 'eliminate the high-risk' type of hits.
"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.