The Minnesota Wild made a few moves of note on the first day of free agency, adding some defensive depth in signing Keith Ballard, and moving a long rumored trade candidate, in shipping Devon Setoguchi off to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a draft pick.
But that wasn’t the move that grabbed the headlines for the up-and-coming franchise. What earned them the most publicity, for better or for worse, was their signing of noted goon Matt Cooke. The former Pittsburgh Penguins forward somehow earned a three-year deal with the Wild, worth $7.5 million overall.
It’s a puzzling signing, to be sure. The easy explanation, however, is that the Wild felt they needed to replace the void that was left when Cal Clutterbuck was traded last weekend. They apparently wanted that type of player, who tiptoes on the edge with his physical play and brings energy. Only Cooke has a tendency to go from “tiptoeing”, to leaping over the edge.
He’s shown somewhat of a change in his game in the last few years, with fewer malicious shots to the head, but he’s managed to get his kicks in one way or another. Many will immediately point to him stepping on the ankle of Erik Karlsson last year, slicing his Achilles tendon with his skate.
Matt Cooke has a reputation that he will not be able to shake, no matter how many consecutive games he plays before his next suspension. And that’s the way things should be for a guy in league with the likes of Raffi Torres and Todd Bertuzzi. Bringing him in won’t do Minnesota any favors, as far as their popularity is concerned.
It’s a puzzling signing, given Cooke’s particular…skill set, but we’ll see how it works out for them. If he can continue to play within the borders of a game that can only be described as civilized, he’s shown he can add a bit of skill to the mix. But that’s something he’ll have to prove in the long term.