Free-agent center, team agree to one-year dealRALEIGH, N.C. (Aug. 5, 2004)
â€“ Jim Rutherford, President / General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has agreed to terms with free-agent center Matt Cullen on a one-year contract. As per club policy, no other terms were announced.
â€œMatt is a big centerman who will add a scoring and playmaking element to our forward lines,â€? said Rutherford. â€œWe feel he will be a valuable addition to our core group of young forwards.â€?
Cullen, 27, played in 56 games with Florida in 2003-04, scoring six goals and adding 13 assists (19 points) while accumulating 24 penalty minutes. He underwent sports-hernia surgery following the Panthersâ€™ first three regular-season games causing him to miss 23 consecutive contests, Oct. 15-Nov. 29. Cullen (6â€™ 2â€?, 218 lbs.) posted seven points in his first 11 games after returning from the injury on Dec. 3, and played in 53 of Floridaâ€™s final 56 games. He finished the season with a minus-2 plus/minus rating, the third-best rating of any Florida player playing in more than 21 games (Pavel Trnka was +2; Valerie Bure was even).
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim drafted the Virginia, Minn., native in the second round, 35th overall, in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. After being named a First-Team WCHA All-Star out of St. Cloud State in 1996-97, Cullen turned professional. He made his NHL debut with Anaheim on Oct. 28, 1997, and played in 61 games his rookie year, scoring six goals and adding 21 assists. In 2001-02, Cullen set career highs with 18 goals and 48 points, and tied his career high 30 assists mark while playing in 79 games with the Mighty Ducks. He was traded to Florida along with Pavel Trnka and a 2003 fourth-round draft pick on Jan. 30, 2003, in exchange for Sandis Ozolinsh and Lance Ward. He played his 500th NHL game on March 6, 2004, and has scored 77 goals, 154 assists (231 points) in 513 regular-season NHL contests.
Cullen played for Hurricanes Head Coach Peter Laviolette at the International Ice Hockey Federationâ€™s 2004 World Championships in the Czech Republic, and scored two goals and four assists (6 points) in Team USAâ€™s nine-game march to the bronze medal. It was the fourth time Cullen had represented the United States at the World Championships.