After flirting with retirement for the past few seasons, forward Matt Cullen has officially announced his retirement from the NHL. It was announced by the Pittsburgh Penguins twitter account this afternoon with a video of Cullen and his story:
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) July 10, 2019
Matt Cullen Announces His Retirement
Cullen appeared in over 1,516 games overall which was second all-time for American born players. He had 266 goals and 731 career points for his career. Cullen played in the NHL for 21 seasons for eight different teams along his journey. The team that he played for the longest was the Anaheim Ducks as they were the team that drafted him. He played there for six years until he went to Florida and then to the Carolina Hurricanes where he won his first of three Stanley Cups. The year he won with Carolina (2005-2006) was the year he scored the most goals in a season for his career (25) and had the most points during a season in his career (49).
After Carolina, he had a stop with the New York Rangers before going back to Carolina for a couple of seasons then going to the Minnesota Wild. During this time, Cullen was putting up solid 30-40 point seasons while scoring anywhere between 10-20 goals a season. Those are very solid numbers for a top-nine center at the time. He was very consistent for whatever team he played for. He could play center or wing and move up and down the lineup.
Even in the playoffs, he would still produce, especially as the games got bigger. Cullen appeared in 132 playoff games throughout his career and scored 19 goals with 58 points. 13 of his 19 goals were scored either on the Hurricanes or Penguins since those are the teams he had a lot of success with but he still scored three with the Senators in 2009-2010 and had a couple more with other teams.
What he did for the Penguins
Before Cullen got to the Penguins, Pittsburgh had been in a rut. They had just bowed out of the playoffs in five games against the New York Rangers, they hadn’t won a cup since 2009, things were way out of whack. One of the signings that general manager Jim Rutherford made after the 2015 season was bringing in Matt Cullen to anchor the fourth line. It turned out to be one of the best decisions he has made in his time in Pittsburgh.
Cullen got to play behind Nick Bonino (who Rutherford also acquired during that offseason) and brought much-needed depth scoring to the Penguins. Whenever the star players like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin went dry for Pittsburgh, they never had any depth scoring to balance it out until someone like Cullen came in. During the 2015-2016 season, he had 16 goals and 32 points playing on the fourth line. He also had some massive playoff goals along the way. That included the Game 3 winner against the New York Rangers in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
It seemed as if there was any time the Penguins needed something, Cullen was always there to answer the call. That goal was one of the most important goals scored during that run.
The same was also said when he came back to the Penguins in the 2016-2017 season. He had 13 goals and 31 points that season. He also produced an outstanding goal in the playoffs against the Washington Capitals that led to a postseason series win:
This goal not only opened the scoring of this game, but it also opened the floodgates for the Penguins as they raced to a 2-0 series lead. But what an unbelievable effort it was by Cullen on this goal to get past Kevin Shattenkirk and sneak it past Braden Holtby.
Another one of his best games against the Penguins came during that run. It was the biggest game of the season for Pittsburgh and it’s when Cullen played his best. In Game 6, he led the Penguins in ice time and helped kill off five Predators power plays. That helped ensure that the Penguins would hoist the Stanley Cup. He was also making his presence felt at 5v5 for Pittsburgh throughout the night as well and had an on-ice view when Patric Hornqvist scored the cup-clincher.
Overall, Cullen amassed for 36 goals and 83 points in 225 career games for the Penguins. His year this past season may have been down. However, don’t discount the importance of him to the team whether it’s on or off the ice.
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 1: Pittsburgh Penguins Center Matt Cullen (7) skates during the overtime period. The Washington Capitals won 3-2 in overtime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs May 1, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)