The Penguins have re-signed forward Matt Cooke to a three-year deal with a annual salary cap hit of $1.8 million.
A free agent signing in the 2008 offseason, Cooke, 31, has spent the past two seasons with the Penguins primarily as a third-liner and penalty killer.
Last season, Cooke (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) appeared in 79 games and recorded 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) a plus-17 and 106 points. In 2008-09, Cooke played in 76 games and netted 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists), an even plus/minus rating and 101 points. During the team's run towards its third Stanley Cup title in 2009, Cooke appeared in all 24 of the Penguins postseason games and scored seven points (one goal, seven assists)
Cooke's new deal is a raise as he counted $1.2 million against the team's salary cap the past two seasons. He was scheduled to become a unrestricted free agent July 1.
EN Says: We like the move but we're a bit surprised by it. Ray Shero has shown hesitation in the past to sign role players to anything as long as a three-year deal (See Ruutu, Jarkko). And considering Cooke is the wrong side of 30, it's a little surprising to see Shero commit a deal like this.
But that aside, it's a good move. Cooke has proven to be a valuable component to a Stanley Cup contender. He's one of the team's top penalty killers and works very well with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy on the third line. And he's a consistent scorer having netted at least 30 points each of the past two seasons. If you can get 30 points from a third-line winger, you're doing something right.
Cooke's most vaulable attribute might be his role as agitator. He in the class of Steve Ott, Sean Avery or Ruutu in terms of being a pest. While his style of play may cross the line (See Savard, Marc), Cooke is one of the league's most physical checkers.
The money seems right too. Ruslan Fedotenko counted $1.8 million towards the team's cap last season. By that meager standard, Cooke is a bargain.
With Cooke back in the fold, the Penguins' remaining unrestricted free agents are Fedotenko, Mark Eaton ($2 million cap hit in 2009-10) Sergei Gonchar ($5 million), Bill Guerin ($2 million), Jordan Leopold (1.75 million), Jay McKee ($800,000) and Alexei Ponikarovsky ($2.5 million). Fedotenko, McKee and Ponikarovsky are not expected to re-sign.
(Photos: First-Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press; Second-Elsa/Getty Images)