With his official retirement announcement coming this past offseason after a decorated, 21-year career in the NHL, questions arose around Matt Cullen as to what his plans would be going forward. Would he move back home to Minnesota again? Would he continue to have a role in hockey in some capacity? Would he step away from the game completely?
Those questions have been answered and plans have been solidified, as per a Penguins’ press release today, the team has decided to bring him on the hockey operations staff as a player development coach.
“Matt’s knowledge of the game and understanding of our organization will make him a valuable asset moving forward,” said GM Jim Rutherford. “With over 20 years in the NHL and three Stanley Cups, we are certain he will continue to have a positive influence on our players.”
In this new role, Cullen will work closely with both Rutherford in the front office, as well as Mike Sullivan and the rest of the Penguins’ coaching staff. This is no surprise being as both Rutherford and Sullivan share a deep trust and admiration for the person Cullen is, as well as the hockey knowledge that he can share.
Former players transitioning into the front office is nothing new for the Penguins. Bill Guerin was also hired in a “player development coach” role similar to the job title Cullen will operate under back in 2011. Guerin has done well and enjoyed the work, and his role has grown hugely over the years — he’s now up to the team’s assistant general manager and is considered a rising star in management circles an potential full general manager candidate in the NHL.
Mark Recchi’s Pittsburgh roots run deep back through the 1980s when he was drafted as a player and had three different stints as a player with the organization in a Hall of Fame career. In the summer of 2014, Recchi was also named to a “player development coach” role with the Penguins, eventually getting promoted to director of player development for the organization, and then to assistant coach in 2017.
So for Cullen, the opportunities to continue a post-playing career in the NHL seem virtually limitless, assuming he takes to the job and wants to keep going. Cullen is definitely in a position to eventually enter coaching, management or scouting, or pretty much anything that he desires to do in the years that follow. This player development job a pretty clear stepping stone for recently retired players to transition into an off-the-ice role that fits them best.