It appears the Penguins will have two center slots to fill this season. Forty-seven days after Nick Bonino left the ‘Burgh for the Music City, Matt Cullen signed a one-year deal with his home state Minnesota Wild. The contract carries a base salary of $1 million, plus incentives.
Despite his advanced age, the 40-year-old Cullen was a remarkably effective player for the Pens and an underrated cog on our back-to-back Stanley Cup winners. During his two seasons with the black and gold, he tallied 29 goals and 63 points in 154 regular-season games while filling a vital two-way role. An excellent penalty killer and faceoff man, Cullen was a strong locker-room presence as well.
“It was probably the hardest decision I ever had to make,” the popular veteran told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s really hard to say goodbye. Pittsburgh has been a second home for us. It’s been the best two years of our lives as a family. Winning two years in a row … it makes it difficult to say goodbye.”
Cullen becomes the tenth member of the Pens’ 2017 Cup champions to join another team this summer. In addition to Bonino, key contributors Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey and long-time stalwarts Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Kunitz departed via trade, free agency or the expansion draft.