The Pittsburgh Penguins summer of adding depth continues, the latest is a dip into the free agency pool to sign veteran center Matt Cullen.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have agreed to terms with veteran center Matt Cullen on a one-year contract for $800,000, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
Cullen, 38, is a 17-year NHL veteran who played the past two seasons with the Nashville Predators. He played under Rutherford for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06 and again from 2007-10, helping the Canes win the Stanley Cup in 2006.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Virginia, MN also has skated for Anaheim, Florida, the New York Rangers, Ottawa and Minnesota in an NHL career that began in 1997.
The team had mentioned wanting to sign a veteran for the 4th line, and boom, here you go, veteran for the 4th line.
At least it's not Max Lapierre.
By the numbers
In fact, Cullen may have a little left in the tank. Last year he scored 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists) in 62 games, playing with a hodgepodge of forwards in Nashville. What's encouraging is Cullen had a solid 53.2% Corsi For and a 2.80 GF/60 against just a 1.87 GA/60. In other words, when Cullen played last year, Nashville out-shot and out-scored the opposition.
That's quite the departure from the most recent Penguins 4th line centers like Lapierre, Marcel Goc and Joe Vitale, all of whom failed to make a positive impact, let alone produce points at a reasonable rate.
Nashville didn't utilize Cullen much on the PK last season (only 0:48 per game) and the Pens need some PK forwards, since many of their top TOI guys moved on from last year. This could be an opportunity to put the still speedy Cullen in a more defensive role for the Penguins in 2015.
Cullen was very good on faceoffs - winning a very impressive 56.7% of his draws last season. That should be a big benefit to the Penguins, especially since now the bottom 6 players will have decent-to-good possession level players that should be able to take advantage of winning those draws.
Cullen vs. Sutter on the Glass-to-Crosby scale. This is fun. pic.twitter.com/70qffGgj0v— Ryan Scott (@Tortacular) August 6, 2015
Salary Cap implications
Doesn't change a whole lot. We'll update from our recent look:
With 12 forwards signed (though Eric Fehr is still recovering from elbow surgery), 7 defensemen and 2 goalies, the Penguins have just about a full roster. And they're $1.5 million under the cap. Plenty of space to add 1 young player (Scott Wilson, Oskar Sundqvist, Bryan Rust) and call it a day.
But is he a hockey guy?
Oh, thank God, Matt Cullen is a hockey guy.
Hearing so many good things about Matt Cullen the person. Forget the hockey player. Think this could be a personality they need.— Jason Mackey (@Mackey_Trib) August 6, 2015
Just got off the phone with Matt Cullen. Great interview; he seems like an awesome guy. Jim Rutherford raved about him as a teammate. -MC— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) August 6, 2015
Jokes aside, other than Pascal Dupuis (who's been out of the locker-room a lot more than he's been in it lately) it's a fairly young Penguins forward grouping. Cullen has a lot of experience, and was a Stanley Cup champion in Carolina in 2006. He's got an impressive career resume, and seems to be a good teammate. I don't think any of that will tangibly result in wins, but it can't be a bad thing to add a stable, veteran leader to the group.
Bottom Six Options
We'll lock Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist, Perron and Kunitz into the top-6 and look at the other forwards.
Once Fehr returns, the Penguins could roll a 3rd line of:
Or, if they find Plotnikov is a very good player:
With Fehr on the shelf early in the season it could be:
4th line of Cullen, Bennett and 1 of Wilson/Rust/Sundqvist.
Any way you slice the options, it's incredible depth to have and options are always a good thing.