Penguins Update: Cullen Signs with Wild – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Cullen Signs with Wild

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.

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  1. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    August 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    McClement? Really? As an insurance policy okay but no I doubt this is the 3rd line Center; 4th maybe. His Corsi was roughly equal to Bonino’s last year but his FOs really took a hit and his Offense was nearly non existent and at 33 it will only get worse.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      August 28, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      I confess, I haven’t been too plugged in lately and just noticed this move this morning.

      Not really sure what’s up with this, other than JR trying to catch a little lightning in a bottle–and perhaps add some organizational depth–with a low-risk move.

      A few years back, McClement was a fairly accomplished defensive forward and penalty killer. Good on draws and, having served as an assistant captain for several teams, a quality guy in the locker room. Something JR definitely looks for.

      Still, he hasn’t done much offensively for a number of years and definitely seems to be in decline.


    • 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
      August 31, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Hello All,

      Some still believe there will be a 3rd line center here before the season opens. I can only hope they’re right.

      I’m not keen on opening the season with let’s-see-what-we’ve-got. I’d rather not see them having to move people around to fill holes. And, I don’t want to see Crosby and Malkin skating extra minutes in October. So, in a way, I’m glad McClement is here in the event no deal is reached between now and opening day. He may do in October, but he won’t in March and April.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        September 1, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        Hey 55 on Point,

        I am still holding out hope that the Pens grab Athanasiou. If I am reading Cap Friendly correctly, at this point Detroit has less than $1 mil that they can offer him. The longer Athanasiou is out there the more I think about the possibilities of what he, Hagelin and Kessel could do as a line. The pressure the could bring as a third line should open up so much for Crosby’s and Malkin’s lines.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          September 2, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          Hey Other Rick,

          Like your thoughts on Athanasiou. With his skating and offensive potential, he just feels like a Penguins-type player, doesn’t he?

          Another issue, and I may have mentioned this before. At this stage of his career, Malkin routinely misses about 15-20 games a season. So we really need a center who has enough pedigree to fill an elevated role when called upon.


          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            September 2, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

            Agreed Rick,

            I would say though, that on games that Malkin does miss, rather than move Athanasiou up to center Malkin’s Line, just flip flop Lines and elevate the whole line; Athanasiou, Hagelin, Kessel.

        • 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
          September 7, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink


          I agree. He impressed me – well, a bit, anyway. I watched several Detroit games last year and he is a Pens-style skater. With Kessel’s passing/set up ability and the over all speed that line would bring, it could be a perfect storm of a third line.

          While I didn’t get my several year wish for a big, solid, snarling D-man, I’m quite satisfied with this roster, to which I think Athanasiou would be a good fit. This team would be the perfect place for him to build a solid career, and the price would be very agreeable.

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    August 22, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Not a biggie, but the Pens re-signed restricted free agent center Jean-Sebastien Dea to a one-year, two-way contract. It’s worth $650,000 at the NHL level.


  3. Pens8771's Gravatar Pens8771
    August 18, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t buy into (start the season with what we got and see if we can get a center later) Jim Rutherford doesn’t want to go that route, at least I hope he doesn’t! I think he’s just waiting to see if the prices drop some and that is smart but in the end he’ll pull the trigger before camp opens!

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      August 19, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Hey Pens8771,

      JR does seem to be a shrewd horse trader at times and let’s face it, teams like Col are trying to price gouge; coming off such a bad season, I believe worst +/- last year and barely over 40pnts, It is ridiculous to ask for multiple 1st round picks for Duchene.

      As I wrote below, I am being drawn to wanting to see the Pens pluck Athansiou. From what I read Detroit is in Cap trouble with players returning from IR and they may not be able to sign the RFA. The Pens may not have to give up anything at all but try and sign him.

      Another thought; they may be looking to see if they can sign Butcher and then flip a D man for a Center. You would think a team looking to threepeat wouldn’t be banking on a Rookie D man to fill the shoes of a Maatta, but stranger things have happened.

      Don’t mind me, I am just having fun trying to guess what will happen.

      • Pens8771's Gravatar Pens8771
        August 19, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        I like your thoughts on Athansiou, I remember last year the goal he scored on the pens, slick hands and a ton of speed. Put him between Kessel and hags and that could be the fastest line in hockey! Gotta give Jim R credit though, he is being very patient!

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        August 24, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Hi all.
        Season is about to start. Something will break soon about our 3rd center dilemma.
        Hope you all had a great summer.
        Getting ready in a few days to post my final part two
        of the NHL by the numbers.
        Then the pre season will start.
        3 peat…Here we come!

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          August 25, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

          I am still hoping for Athanasiou but I also wouldn’t mind seeing Aston-Reese getting a shot at the 3rd line Center.

  4. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    August 17, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Scratch Girgensons from our list of center options. He signed a two-year deal with Buffalo today. The average annual value is $1.6 million.


    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      August 17, 2017 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Now that is a good deal for Buffalo Rick.
      1.6 mill. a year for 2 years.
      Former # 1 pick I believe.
      Very Big body.. Quick…Lots of upside.
      Love to had him with us.
      Send them Derrick P. and Tommy K. for a trade.??

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        August 18, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        I think the Penguins still have hopes for Pouliot. This will probably be his make or break season…at least with us.


        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          August 19, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

          Hey Rick,

          With all of the negativity we all seem to dump on Pouliot (me included) when I was looking at stats these past couple of weeks I ran across these;

          Pouliot in order for his first 3 seasons.
          Corsi%s: 54.0, 58.5, and 47.9
          Corsi Shots Against/60: 48.2, 47.1, 57.1

          Even more interesting is that 2015-2016 season he had his best Corsi in terms of % and CA/60 yet he had his highest Defensive Zone starts at 54%. So when the pressure was highest from a D stands point, he responded the the best.

          Now compare that to Trevor Daley over his 2 seasons in order.
          Corsi% 53.7 and 46.1
          CA/60 50.5 65.7
          While his DZ Stars were 44.9 and 52.0

          I am still not sold on Corsi numbers but Pouliot is a clear upgrade over Daley in that dept and I could understand if the Pens are still holding out hopes for him; if they are only looking at numbers rather than the eye test. And I could also see where they may still view him as a possible trade bait, pointing to those numbers to try and sell him.

  5. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    August 17, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Changing the subject, Sam Werner and Jason Mackey are doing a series of articles on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called 2017-18 Penguins Prospectus. Essentially, they’re doing a feature on each of the players currently on the roster.

    Interesting and informative.


  6. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    August 17, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I was working on an article myself but have tons on my plate and you beat me to the punch.

    So rather than start anything new here is my rant;

    With Cullen and Bones gone roughly 60% of the Pens DZ FOs are gone as well as nearly all the SH TOI among Cs. Block Shots are an over-rated stat, it could simply mean that you can’t get out of your own end, but with the amount of DZ FOs and SH TOI gone, there is a gaping hole on this roster.

    I was not all that concerned with Bonino’s loss; he had a serious drop in play last year, maybe he was subconsciously letting his lack of a contract hurt his play, but his CORSI particularly suffered. Offensively he was pretty much absent until March. However, Cullen just keeps on trucking, even at 40yrs of age. I thought he was going to get the 3rd line job with Rowney getting the 4th line role.

    Sorry, Ryan Reaves fans, but at this point, even though he really wasn’t getting much of a chance, trading a full time Center, in Oskar Sundqvist, when you have precious few true Centers on the roster for a Right Wing, especially when you are loaded at Right Wing does seem to be a serious waste. Reaves had better play more than a handful of games, more than 5 minutes a game and score between 12-15 Goals and get around 30 points.

    A center from outside the organization may still be on the Penguins horizon; Andreas Athanasiou. In a recent article on the NHL Web Site, it was suggested that Detroit may not be able to resign the young RFA. The Wings are due to get back a host of veterans that will put their backs against the wall. From a defensive stand point, the kid will be a serious risk but at least he has played some NHL games and if he Centers Hagelin and Kessel, the Puck may never be in the Pens Zone. Add to that the kid was tops among Wings’ Centers in G/60 and second in P/60 (1.36 and 2.16 respectively). Putting him with Phil the Thrill may just pump those numbers up to electric levels. The Pens do have some Cap room to give him a decent contract, now that Cullen is no longer an option to keep some money opened for.

    Inside the Organization, Aston-Reese is a serous option to consider. He has played the position before and I am really interested in seeing what he can do.

    I don’t think the Sky is Falling yet, but the chances of a Threepeat just got that much harder.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      August 17, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Well said Coach.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      August 17, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Excellent observations, Other Rick.

      As I’d noted in an earlier comment, the Pens are going to need someone with at least some offensive pedigree, given that Malkin generally misses around 15-20 games a season and Sid’s not getting any younger. Athanasiou certainly fits the bill there, although as you pointed out, not so much on the defensive side of the ledger.

      I think the Pens feel confident that Rowney will be a strong defensive presence, so maybe they can give up a little in that regard when looking at a third-line center. But any way you slice it, it’s going to be hard to make up for what we’ve lost in Bonino and Cullen.

      I also agree that we may have more internally than meets the eye with kids like Aston-Reese, Adam Johnson and Dominik Simon (very skilled but probably not a defensive stalwart).

      A mild pushback. I know you hate the Reaves trade with a capital H-A-T-E. And I agree with your sentiments to a degree. But, I’m sure knowing in advance that they were probably going to lose Bonino and Cullen, the Pens still decided to part with Sundqvist spoke volumes of what they thought about him.

      I’ll be very surprised if he becomes more than a fringe player at the NHL level.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        August 17, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Hey Rick,

        I know the Pens were very down on Sundqvist as you pointed out they had to know this current scenario was possible when they traded him for Reaves, or at least one would think they had to entertain this possibility. However, the Pens reticence to use Sundqvist may have been more of a question of their bias against bigger players. Comparing Bonino’s, Cullen’s and Sundqvist’s Corsi and Fenwick (unblocked shots) per 60 min for Short Handed Situations;

        Player Season Corsi/60 Fenwick/60
        Bonino 2015-16 108.7 81.7
        Bonino 2016-17 98.3 73.2
        Cullen 2015-16 98.8 75.8
        Cullen 2016-17 113.7 83.7
        Sundqvist 2015-16 73.3 57
        Sundqvist 2016-17 97 48.5

        It appears that the Pens really were not using their best Centers for Penalty kills. Granted all of Sundqvist’s ice time was limited as a Penguin, but I wouldn’t be too sure that Sundqvist’s loss was all that minor.

        Even if Sundqvist doesn’t really get a chance in St Louis to prove himself, I still lay the blame on the Pens organization for leaving him over in Europe far too long and not really giving him a serious shot at a roster spot, burying him in the minors.

        As for Aston-Reese, Johnson, and Simon, I am looking forward to see what Aston-Reese can do as I wrote below, I don’t know much about Johnson, so I won’t comment here, but Simon hasn’t really impressed me as a Center. If he does make the Pens roast, I would think he would be another one of those players better suited to wing.

        This is August and the team still has Crosby and Malkin, so I am not in Panic mode, but I do think the Pens have been shooting themselves in the foot with some of their decisions (not extending Bonnino’s contract last year, trading Sundvist and not giving him ice time when he was here).

        I do think that they should take a serious look at getting Athanasiou.

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          August 17, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          Sorry the table of stats collapsed on me when I posted. I’ll fix it later

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          August 17, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          Interesting stuff, Other Rick.

  7. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    August 17, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,
    Speaking of Center men.
    Yesterday it was announced that Edmonton signed Leon Draisaitl to an 8 year contract at $ 8.5 million per year. Next year McDavid’s new $ 12.5 million contract will commence as well. 21 million invested into 2 centers for 8 years ! Makes Sid and Geno a real bargain at $ 8.7 million and $ 9.5 million Cap Hits respectively.
    I know with the crazy salary increases of the past few years, the $ 8.5 million contract for Leon could look like a real steal come 2025 !!

  8. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    August 16, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick.
    What a surprise? Reports from Minnesota and from NHL talking heads in Toronto had indicated that Cullen turned down overtures from the Wild in June
    Now we need to really get busy…As I said earlier Rowley goes to 4th line but we still have a big hole at # 3 spot.
    Who do we trade Rick?

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      August 16, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      Boy, Jim, I sure don’t know.

      I’ve heard the Pens might be willing to part with Olli Maatta, but goodness knows if that’s rooted in fact.

      One of our dilemmas? There aren’t a lot of quality third-line centers out there, at least not on the trading block.

      Nor are we the only team looking for help down the middle. Heck, Columbus may start the season with Brandon Dubinsky as their second-line center. Nashville’s touting Bonino as a No. 2 as well. Third liners both, in my book.


      PS–In the “it ain’t a perfect world” department, I believe Zemgus Girgensons is still unsigned. Certainly not ideal, especially for a team with designs on a three-peat. But perhaps worth $750K-$1M on a one-year deal.

      In the “Buker, you’ve completely lost it” department, Eric Fehr has popped into my head a couple of times. Again, hardly ideal, especially at $2M. But Fehr never really got to play center for the Pens, his best position. When Cullen was out for a stretch, I was impressed with his work between Chris Kunitz and Scott Wilson. Of course, that was on the fourth line, not the third.

      To sum up, I dunno who we should get. Hopefully, JR does.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        August 16, 2017 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

        Great points Rick.
        I seem to remember saying a while back that defense was going to be our real issue for a 3 peat performance and there were lots of options available for Centers at that time. Where did they all go ?
        Boy was I mistaken.Have to eat a little humble pie on this point.
        I know I am going to catch some flak from the PP faithful, but now we have a REAL problem if we do not get a center with talent and hopefully a 62% + face off win percentage. We better because Cullen was really a number 3 center playing on the 4 th line most nights.
        Plus let us not forget when the really big games were on the line he was ALWAYS one of our best players in the defensive department.

        We can not 3 peat with our present TEAM as built today.!!
        We do not have the proper defensive depth at center.
        With the right player that changes everything.

        MY 2 cents…

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          August 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

          Agreed, Jim.

          Given everything that Bonino and Cullen did for us (score, block shots, kill penalties, win draws) it’s going to be next-to-impossible to replace them.

          Plus, both those guys were capable of filling an elevated role in a pinch. Especially important, given that Malkin generally misses a good 15-20 games a year.

          Obviously, a Girgensons or a Fehr won’t do. I think Carter Rowney will be fine as a fourth-line center, although we’ll take a little hit, production-wise. But we really do need an impact player at third-line center to harbor any real hope for another Cup.

          Don’t know if Tyler Bozak and/or Matt Duchene are still being shopped. If they are, you can bet they’ll command a steep return, especially since we’re likely to have stiff competition to acquire their services.

          Definitely a situation where we’re going to have to give up something to get something.



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