Over the summer the Pittsburgh Penguins lost veteran center Matt Cullen when he decided to go back home to the Minnesota Wild. It’s been a sore loss on and off the ice, as the Pens lost center depth and a quality lockeroom presence.
But it hasn’t gone quite as planned for the now 41-year old Cullen, who has but 1 goal and 5 assists in 27 games with the Wild and now has bumped down to being a healthy scratch by coach Bruce Boudreau.
On Wednesday, The Athletic detailed the situation:
It’s extremely clear coach Bruce Boudreau has not been happy with Cullen’s play for a while.
Here’s proof: Boudreau is usually willing to critique any player honestly and in a public fashion. He’s old-school that way: If a reporter asks a question that warrants an assessment, he’s not going to insult the reporter’s intelligence and tell a reporter his eyes are deceiving him by dodging an obvious inquiry.
Asked about Cullen on Tuesday morning and particularly the fact he visibly was nowhere to be found on the penalty kill the game before, Boudreau chose not to comment, likely out of respect for the 41-year-old veteran of 1,516 regular season and playoff games.
Similarly, Cullen didn’t want to delve deep into his decreasing ice time and role in his return to Minnesota.
“We’re what, 26 games in?” Cullen said before Tuesday’s game. “I try to keep perspective that there’s a long season ahead. There’s always an adjustment [when you change teams], and there’s been an adjustment.
Similarly, the Pens are still itching to add another center. Also from the Athletic, Josh Yohe’s quote from the other day stood out
They'll get someone, I strongly believe, but it's tough to pinpoint right now. GMJR is really frustrated at the moment because very few teams are willing to trade right now.
It leads to a natural question
I wonder if Cullen would/could be a consideration/possibility to fill PIT need for F depth. No clue if MIN or PIT would even consider it. Just wondering/thinking out loud: https://t.co/KW2cWqDump— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 8, 2017
There’s no indication the Cullen situation will culminate with the player or team looking to move on. Cullen is unique in that his family is a main consideration for him, and he may not welcome a mid-season (and mid-school year) relocation.
Then again, after being a scratch last night, Cullen’s not happy and the Wild for their part have just promoted a top young prospect from the minors in Joel Eriksson Ek. Cullen probably hasn’t given the jolt to the 4th line that Minnesota was expecting, and they’re not using him much as a penalty killer, either.
Asked how Cullen handled hearing of Boudreau’s decision, the coach said, “He handled it like any pro. He didn’t like it. And I didn’t expect him to like it. That’s why he’s been a champion his whole life.”
Matt Cullen is a 41-year old NHL player, perhaps he is at the end of the rope. Maybe he’s not the same guy who scored 29 goals in 2 seasons with the Pens recently. But he is a quality person and probably has a little more to offer than how he’s being used currently. Should Boudreau and Minnesota not have Cullen in their plans, as McKenzie wonders out loud, it would be very interesting to see if Cullen would consider a different kind of homecoming to the team he’s had so much success with lately that would definitely have a need for his services.
This isn’t a rumor quite yet, but it certainly is an interesting situation to monitor just how much the Wild are (or maybe more important aren’t) utilizing Cullen in the weeks ahead.