Matt Cullen has taken his sweet time for the past three years to decide deep in the summer where he would play hockey. The last two times he decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year, however, he’s returning home to the Minnesota Wild.
This wasn’t a monetary issue to leave Pittsburgh, nor was there anything else the Pens could have done to sway the decision. This was a lifestyle, family decision that works best for the Cullen’s at this point.
Cullen leaves Pittsburgh with 2 Stanley Cup championships in his 2 seasons in the ‘Burgh. Playing mostly a 4th line role, he scored 32 and 31 points in his two years, fantastic production and one of the best bargains in the league too signing for barely more than NHL minimum wage. He was a great fit stylistically with his speed and skill and helped elevate the Pens 4th line from the disasters of the Adams/Glass/Sill years up to be a capable and successful line.
Now, though, it’s time to move on. Pens GM Jim Rutherford insinuated back in July that he had a trade tentatively made to acquire a center, but wanted to wait to see if a better deal would open up. One would think now with no Cullen in the fold, it’s time to quickly acquire some depth.
After Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins best centers in the organization are some amalgamation of Carter Rowney, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Greg McKegg. That’s obviously not depth for any NHL team, let alone a back-to-back champion NHL team.
A major domino in the summer has fallen, and it hasn’t gone Pittsburgh’s way. Matt Cullen has joined an exodus of veterans (Nick Bonino, Marc-Andre Fleury, Trevor Daley, Chris Kunitz, Ron Hainsey) who have departed Pittsburgh this summer. Now, it’s time to add an NHL caliber center or two in order to shore up the team before the start of the season. No need to panic but it will be interesting to see what move Rutherford is able to make.