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Pens Re-sign Matt Cooke

One of the Penguins' major impending free agents has decided not to test the open market, as Matt Cooke has agreed to a three year deal, per many sources.

Cooke has played two seasons with the Penguins and become a vital part of the team, playing on a line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy, as well as being a key part of the team's penalty kill.  Cooke provides grit and sometimes questionable hits, and is coming off a career high 15 goals last season.

It's telling that General Manager Ray Shero would give Cooke, at age 31, a three-year deal.  Cooke came to the Pens in the summer 2008 as the replacement for forward Jarkko Ruutu.  Ruutu was only offered a two year contract by Pittsburgh, which Ottawa one-upped with a three-year deal.

Shero doesn't often sign veterans to contracts longer than a year or two, so that he gave Cooke three speaks to not only the leverage Cooke had as an impending unrestricted free agent, but also to how well Cooke fills his role with the Penguins.

What may be lost in this is ramifications for star defenseman Sergei Gonchar.  While Cooke's salary won't be the difference in retaining Gonchar or not, it had seemed possible that Gonchar would be "the first domino to fall" in salary negotiations and then the team would make decisions on guys like Cooke and other free agents such as Mark Eaton and Jordan Leopold accordingly. 

That Shero's already moved on to signing Cooke, reportedly after getting a contract offer from Gonchar's camp earlier this week, may indeed formalize what many Pens fans have feared: Gonchar's priced himself out of Pittsburgh and 2009-10 was most likely his final season with the Pens.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.