After signing with Minnesota, veteran Matt Cooke still trying to shed rough-stuff reputation

  • Article by: DAVE CAMPBELL , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 8, 2013 - 5:30 PM

After 15 years in the NHL, there's a part of Matt Cooke's game that he'd like to lose: his reputation for the rough stuff.

With five suspensions levied by the league and other acts criticized over the course of his career, the left wing still has work to do with the image makeover. But the Minnesota Wild's view of Cooke when the market opened was that he is a reliable penalty killer, shot blocker and third line scorer.

So Cooke signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract with Minnesota on Friday, the last and most startling move made by the Wild on a busy first day of free agency. They also traded forward Devin Setoguchi, let forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen sign with other teams, signed defenseman Keith Ballard and re-signed defenseman Jared Spurgeon.

Cooke has long been one of the most-loathed opposing players among Wild fans, dating to his aggressive performance against them in the 2003 playoffs when he was with Vancouver. Cooke also found trouble for various hits in recent seasons with Pittsburgh.

"I'm sure there's a lot of fans there who maybe aren't fond of me and they remember when I played for Vancouver, but hopefully I can change their opinions rather quickly once I get there," Cooke said on a conference call with reporters soon after his deal was done.

In 2011, Cooke received what amounted to a 17-game suspension for elbowing Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head. Cooke was banned for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs that spring. Sobered by the punishment, Cooke said he needed to change the way he plays.

"My actions will prove it," he told reporters then.

Though that was his last suspension, Cooke's style was questioned anew in February when his skate blade snapped the Achilles tendon of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Cooke, who was not penalized or suspended for that, said he meant no harm.

"I've watched him play for many years. There's no question when he came in the league he was an agitating player," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said, adding: "With the new rules in our game, I think Matt has learned to not take every hit. You see him now passing up on some hits. He angles a lot. He's always in good position defensively and yet he still has that physical presence."

Cooke will make $1.5 million this season, $3 million in 2014-15 and $3 million in 2015-16.

He has a plus-53 goal-differential rating for his career. He hasn't missed a game in either of the last two seasons. In 2011-12, his 38 points on 19 goals and 19 assists were the second most of his career. And his penalty minutes are way down. Since the hit on McDonagh, only three times in 151 games including the playoffs has he received more than four penalty minutes in a game. He took a major against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals last month for checking from behind.

He's still a physical player, bringing the kind of grit the Wild wanted for their third line after trading Cal Clutterbuck. But, Cooke insisted, that grit isn't dirty.

"There's still times that you can go out and get a hit and get big hits that are clean, and they're part of the game. It was the other ones that I wanted to get rid of," Cooke said. "I still averaged over two hits a game this past season, and that's something I want to keep in my game."

The Wild are happy to have that.

"I just think Matt is, to be honest with you, an ideal third-line left winger. For our team right now, we're in the process of learning how to win, of how to become a better team. Players like Matt bring different dimensions. But he has become a really good two-way hockey player," Fletcher said.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Guthrie 7:07 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
San Diego 21 FINAL
Denver 35
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Dallas 6:00 PM
Orlando
New York 6:30 PM
Toronto
San Antonio 7:00 PM
Houston
Miami 7:00 PM
Memphis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Chicago
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Utah
Sacramento 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Denver 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Dallas 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Colorado
Carolina 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Columbus 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Houston 7:00 PM
Chicago
Montreal 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close