While there has been a fair bit of speculation over the last few years regarding when center Matt Cullen may decide to call it a career, it appears he’s leaning towards making the upcoming season his last. In an interview with Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cullen acknowledged that his current mindset is that he is entering his final year:
“I’m definitely going into [the 2018-19 season] thinking that this is probably it. I’m not going to formally announce anything before the season starts, but I think this probably is it.”
Cullen quickly signed a one-year, league minimum contract with the Penguins at the beginning of free agency after spending last season with Minnesota. He struggled with the Wild, collecting just 22 points in 79 games, his lowest output since 2003-04 while his average playing time dipped to a career-low 11:54 per night. At one point last year, it was expected that Cullen was going to be dealt back to Pittsburgh and while the deal ultimately fell through, the 41-year-old believes it was “awfully close” to coming to fruition.
His role two years ago with the Pens was as their fourth line center but it’s far from a guarantee that he will be back in that spot. Pittsburgh is set to get full seasons out of Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan who presently slide into their final two spots down the middle while they also added Derek Grant last month in free agency with the expectation that he will push for a spot as well. As a result, Cullen may be entering his final year as a player who may need injuries to strike to get significant playing time.
If he can find a way to get into 55 games next season though, he would reach the 1,500 games played mark for his career, something that only 18 other players in league history have managed to accomplish. That would certainly be quite the milestone to cap his playing days.