Matt Cullen has agreed to a one-year contract with the Minnesota Wild. The deal is worth $1MM in salary, with an additional $700K in potential performance bonuses. Cullen had been reportedly deciding between the Wild and Penguins, but eventually decided to return home to Minnesota and forego his shot at a “three-peat” with Pittsburgh. Cullen himself told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that leaving the Penguins was “probably the hardest decision I ever had to make.”
“Dad” as many Penguins fans (and media) like to call Cullen was beloved in Pittsburgh, and you could hear the entire team chanting “ONE MORE YEAR!” as they celebrated their latest Stanley Cup victory. 2017-18 will mark his 20th season in the NHL, and he remains a very effective two-way center. Despite playing some of the lowest minutes of his career, he registered more than 30 points for the 13th time, and continued his career-long streak of winning more than 50% of his draws. He’ll likely slot into the fourth-line role in Minnesota, but will provide ample depth behind the star-studded forward group.
[Updated: Minnesota Wild Depth Chart]
In 1,366 career regular season games, Cullen has 689 points but has always been relied upon for more than scoring. His penalty killing ability and leadership on and off the ice will add a new dimension the a Wild team that struggled in the playoffs last season. Cullen has three Stanley Cup victories under his belt, including one from 2005-06 with Carolina, a team that was led by a young superstar named Eric Staal. The two will be reunited in Minnesota where Staal has re-energized his career, and try to bring some playoff success to a team that desperately thirsts for it.
Michael Russo of the Star Tribune was first to break the deal.