Matt Cooke’s days as a Penguin could be numbered.
With the start of free agency just a day away, it appears Cooke — who has been with the Pittsburgh organization since 2008 — isn’t close to a new deal.
As such, he’s primed to hit the open market and, according to Pens GM Ray Shero, it’s tough to see the veteran winger coming back if that happens.
“Most guys, if they get [to unrestricted free agency], there’s more money, or they want a change,” Shero told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Cooke, 34, has enjoyed a career revival in Pittsburgh.
After a number of violent on-ice incidents — the Marc Savard hit and two suspensions in 2011, including the entire opening playoff round — Cooke vowed to change his game and did exactly that during the 2011-12 season.
He went incident-free, racked up just 44 PIM (he had 129 the year prior) and, perhaps most impressively, scored a career-high 19 goals — all at the age of 33.
As such, Cooke will probably garner considerable interest on the open market, even with his spotty history.
Shero said he spoke with Cooke’s agent, Pat Morris, a few weeks ago to exchange ideas about a new deal.
Problem is, the Pens don’t have a ton of space under the salary cap — approximately $4 million — a number expected to change with the qualifying offers out to defenseman Roberto Bortuzzo and forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Harry Zolnierczyk.
Shero also told the Post-Gazette he expected Cooke to “go out, look around, and see what’s there,” in free agency.