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Just two months ago, Gophers center Logan Cooley said he intended to return to college hockey next season. The sophomore-to-be reversed course Thursday, when the Arizona Coyotes announced they have signed him to a three-year entry-level contract.

According to, Cooley's contract will pay him $950,000 annually for his base salary and signing bonus, the maximum for NHL rookies drafted in 2022. There are performance bonuses that could add $3.5 million, the maximum allowed for rookies.

Cooley, a Pittsburgh native, was chosen No. 3 overall by the Coyotes in last year's NHL draft. The second-highest draft pick in Gophers history, he was a finalist for this year's Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player and earned all-America honors. Cooley led the NCAA with 38 assists as a freshman last season and was second nationally with 60 points.

"[Cooley] has established himself as one of the top prospects in the world," Coyotes General Manager Bill Armstrong said in the news release. "He is a very important player for us, and he has an extremely bright future ahead."

During a video news conference in May, Cooley said he wanted to take another run at an NCAA championship with the Gophers. He also noted uncertainty with the Coyotes, whose future in Phoenix is in question after voters rejected proposals to build a new arena for the team.

Cooley tweeted Thursday that when he made that decision in May, he was fully planning to return.

"Over the past months, I have realized that deep down, I feel ready for the challenge of playing at the highest level in the world and I want to fulfill my lifelong dream of being an NHL player," he added. "The hardest part of coming to this decision was feeling like I was letting people down, but I have to be true to myself and do what's in my heart."

In a statement Thursday, Gophers coach Bob Motzko said Cooley "had a tremendous year, not just on the ice, but in the classroom as well. He did a terrific job. We wish him all the best.''

Cooley is the third Gophers underclassman to sign an NHL contract since the team lost in the NCAA championship game last April. The day after the season ended, the Wild signed junior captain Brock Faber, and Toronto signed sophomore forward Matthew Knies, one of Cooley's linemates.

The third member of Cooley's line, Jimmy Snuggerud, has announced he will return to the Gophers for his sophomore season. Snuggerud was taken 23rd overall by St. Louis in the 2022 NHL draft.

Last season, Cooley and Snuggerud became the highest-scoring freshman duo in Gophers history, combining for 110 points. Snuggerud was the team's second-leading scorer behind Cooley with 50 points.

Cooley said in May that the decision between staying with the Gophers or leaving for the NHL was the hardest he has ever made in his hockey career. At 5-10 and 180 pounds, he said he wanted to get stronger on the ice and still feels "like I have some room to grow.''

He also was dissatisfied with the way his freshman season ended. The Gophers fell 3-2 to Quinnipiac in the NCAA championship game last spring, when Quinnipiac tied the score late in the third period and netted the winner 10 seconds into overtime. Cooley did not have a point in the title game, ending a 16-game point streak.

In Thursday's tweet, Cooley thanked Motzko and the staff, his former teammates and "the best fans in college hockey."

"I am so grateful for my time as a Gopher, the support of the U, the fans, and especially my teammates was amazing," Cooley said. "The U is a special place. I'll be watching and cheering the boys on as they pursue a national championship this year."