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Updated: July 5th, 2013 7:18pm
Wild follow up Setoguchi trade by signing free agent Matt Cooke

Wild follow up Setoguchi trade by signing free agent Matt Cooke

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The first day of NHL free agency has been a busy one for the Minnesota Wild.

Minutes after reports filtered out Friday evening that general manager Chuck Fletcher had dealt Devin Setoguchi to the Winnipeg Jets, the Wild announced the signing of free agent Matt Cooke to a three-year, $7.5 million deal.

Cooke, a bruising 34-year-old left wing , joins the Wild after five seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 14-year NHL veteran totaled 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 48 games last season.

Cooke has struggled in recent years to shed the perception of some league onlookers who view him as a "dirty player." On a conference call with local reporters, Cooke admitted that his past reputation "is never going to be gone," but he said he has been heavily focused on fine-tuning his game to better avoid the distinction.

"I spent a lot of time doing video, and teach myself to change. I feel I've accomplished that," Cooke said. "I still feel that's the way I need to play to be successful, it was just eliminating the high-risk hits ... I still go for the biggest hit, but I read the situation. There's still times to get big, clean hits that are part of the game."

Trading Setoguchi freed around $3 million salary cap space. In turn, the Wild immediately filled the opening with Cooke's deal.

The NHL free agency period began at 11 a.m. Friday. The Wild began by making their signing of defenseman Keith Ballard official and re-signing defense Jared Spurgeon, while also officially parting ways with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Both went on to sign with other teams Friday, with Cullen landing with Nashville and Bouchard heading to the New York Islanders.

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