SAINT PAUL, MN—Matt Cullen, 40, a NHL center is about to commence his 20th season in the league, and he has decided to return the Minnesota Wild to be closer to family. This coming season is likely to be his final run, according to reports.
Cullen, who hails from Virginia, Minnesota, closed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Wild on Wednesday, August 16, with approximately $700,000 in bonuses. He spent the last two seasons with the back-to-back Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. NHL reporters disclosed that Cullen has contemplated retirement over the last few years, thinking that a number of the most recent seasons would be his final.
“I think I’ve probably said the same thing the last two years and I would probably say the same thing now, that I’m going into it expecting it will be my last [season]. I’ll try to figure out what’s right at the end of the season, but until then I guess I don’t know. But I fully expect this will be the last one,” Cullen shared.
Last season with Pittsburgh, the 6 foot and 1 inch tall, 200 pound forward appeared in 72 regular-season games and had 31 points (13 goals and 18 assists), a plus-4 rating, and 30 penalty minutes. He made 25 playoff appearances and added nine points (two goals and seven assists), a minus-1 rating, and 24 penalty minutes. He won 51.2% of face-offs and had an average of 13:55 in time on ice.
Pittsburgh’s General Manager, Jim Rutherford, was the one who encouraged Cullen to continue in the NHL prior to the 2015-2016 season. Cullen had just concluded his two-year stint with the Nashville Predators.
“If [Rutherford] hadn’t made the phone call a couple years ago, I don’t know, I’d be coaching youth hockey right now. So I owe him an awful lot,” Cullen contended. He had won a Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes under Rutherford’s management.
Cullen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “It’s really hard to say goodbye. Pittsburgh has been a second home for us. It’s been the best two years of our lives as a family. Winning two years in a row … it makes it difficult to say goodbye.”
In his 19 seasons to date, Cullen has played in 1,366 games with the Anaheim Ducks (who selected him 35th overall in 1996, back when they were known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim), Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, the Wild (his previous stint commenced in 2010 and ran through 2012-2013), Nashville Predators, and Pittsburgh. His totals include 689 points (248 goals and 441 assists), a minus-29 rating, and 558 penalty minutes. In 123 playoff games, he has 56 points (18 goals and 38 assists), a minus-3 rating, and 70 penalty minutes.
Before going pro, Cullen played for Moorhead High School and spent two seasons with the St. Cloud State University Huskies. Additionally, he took a one-year hiatus from the NHL to play for the SG Cortina in Italy.
Cullen’s sons adore the game of hockey, which the father of three says “makes it a lot easier to continue playing.”
“I know that every day they’re at a game is the best day of their life. So to be able to continue to give them that opportunity and have them in the locker room with me and get to know the guys and experience all that comes with being in the NHL is really special.”
Cullen is currently the oldest player in the NHL to have signed a contract for the 2017-2018 season.