Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cooke's Lost Leverage

During a radio interview yesterday, Dave Nonis mentioned that he expects RFA Jarkko Ruutu to be re-signed by the end of the week. If this is true, it appears Matt Cooke is slowly losing his leverage for a bigger contract. While it is obvious that Cooke brings many attributes to the Canucks, if for whatever reason he doesn't re-sign, the Canucks have options to replace him.

One of Cooke's biggest attributes is his versatility which allows him to play in almost any role the Canucks give him. As I talked about in a previous post, he is a third-liner who is also capable of playing minutes on the scoring lines. However, the Canucks don't have him pencilled for the scoring lines this season. In fact, the team signed Anson Carter to be the Sedins' full-time right-winger. Carter is a 50-60 point player; comparedly, Cooke's career-high is only 42 points. After Carter on the depth chart, the Canucks also have Jason King, who started last season as one of the league's hottest rookies while playing on the Sedin line.

Cooke is quick and tenacious on the puck and often plays in penalty-killing situations. But now the Canucks also signed free agent forward Richard Park. While I admit that I haven't seen Park play a lot, by most accounts he is also a quick and defensively-responsible forward. He last played for Minnesota in Jacques Lemaire's defense-first system and finished even in the plus/minus category. He logged 16 minutes a game, playing in every situation including on the powerplay and the penalty-kill. After Park on the depth chart, Ryan Kesler is coming off a solid year in the AHL and should be able to play a bigger role.

Cooke plays a gritty and agitating style to get under other players' skin. Enter Jarkko Ruutu. While Ruutu doesn't have the same offensive potential Cooke has, he is similarly gritty and is fast becoming one of the most hated players in the league. Tyler Bouck should also be able to step into the lineup this season and fill the same role.

Last week, Cooke's agent, Pat Morris took an (un)intended shot at Jarkko Ruutu and his value to the Canucks. He stated that given the Canucks' cap situation, the team is better off spending the extra money on his client rather than trying to re-sign both his client and Ruutu. (My apologies... I don't have the actual quote.) But if Nonis' statement yesterday is true, then Cooke can forget about getting a piece of Ruutu's pie. And he doesn't have a lot of other options left.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 7:02 AM


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