Matt Cooke was on the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but he’s too pricey for the cap-strapped Minnesota as a depth forward.
So, the club has placed him on waivers with the intention of buying him out.
He should be the first buyout of the 2015 off-season, which began officially Thursday morning (honoring the 48 hour grace period following the culmination of the post-season before players are eligible to be bought out). Should the club buy Cooke out, he’ll be departing from the club with just one year bought out of a three year, $7.5 million dollar deal — with only a modified no trade clause.
The reasoning behind buying out Cooke could be argued as the need to move out older talent that can no longer serve the purpose it once did, but far more telling is the fact that the club is buying out the final year of a relatively costly for the value but not altogether unaffordable contract. For Minnesota, this is the first sign that the club is stretched tight for money — and it’s going to haunt them, particularly if they plan on bringing pending UFA netminder Devan Dubnyk to the bank this summer.
Cooke’s production actually dropped off less than many expected in the 2014-2015 season, with the thirty-six year old forward firing off four goals and six assists in twenty-nine games (projecting him to hit ten to fifteen goals when healthy). Multiple surgeries and injuries kept him out of the lineup for nearly the entire season, though, which make him more of a liability than an asset for the club.
With only one third of Cooke’s cap hit projected to remain on the books for the Wild moving forward, the team should have the room to extend Dubnyk with a reasonable — though not overly generous — salary for the next handful of seasons; this should give the Wild closer to eleven million in cap space to work with and a few players left to move or extend with cap-savvy deals. Chris Stewart and Mikael Granlund are two whose contract negotations could get iffy, but it’s possible the club can make the deals work.