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Cullen agrees to one-year contract with Wild

40-year-old center is Minnesota native, has won Stanley Cup three times in 19 seasons

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

Center Matt Cullen, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. Cullen also can earn $700,000 in potential bonuses.

Cullen, 40, had 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 72 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping Pittsburgh win the Cup for the second straight season.

Cullen, a native of Virginia, Minnesota, had been mulling retirement following the 2015-16 season, but signed a one-year contract with the Penguins on Aug. 17, 2016. 

 

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The father of three boys said he and his family took time away from Pittsburgh to return home to Minnesota to quiet the background noise and excitement that came with winning another Cup, and to help him make the right choice from a family perspective. 

"I had to decide if I was ready to play and go for another season, and everything that goes with it," Cullen said. "The competitive drive was still there, and I was really pleased with how I felt in the playoffs and Final. I was really happy with how my body responded to a couple weeks off after the season and it was a big reason I felt that I think I can play again.

"It just came down to taking some time on what was the best decision not just for me, but for my family … at age 40, it's time to let the kids plant some roots and settle down at home. It's a great scenario that I can be able to play in the NHL and be home, too. It's an organization I'm really comfortable with and happy to be a part of."

Cullen, who had 101 points (33 goals, 68 assists) in 193 games in three seasons with the Wild from 2011-13, also won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He reunites with former Hurricanes teammate Eric Staal in Minnesota. Cullen said he's excited to join the Wild, looking to to bounce back after a Western Conference First Round loss against the St. Louis Blues last season.

"Expectations are very high, and I think rightfully so," Cullen said. "I think this is a group that has a lot of potential, and that's a big part of why I wanted to come join in.

"I think from the people I've talked to, it's going to be a very hungry group to win. I think last season probably left a sour taste for a lot guys wanting to prove that that was not the kind of team they were with the finish they had in the playoffs … It's a group that understands they have a lot of potential and it's there for the taking."

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Cullen said his decision wasn't easy, and credited Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford for allowing him to continue his career, which will enter its 20th season.

"If [Rutherford] hadn't made that phone call a couple of years ago, I'd be coaching youth hockey, so I owe him a lot," Cullen said. "I never would have imagined that [I'd be playing this long in my career]. I've been really blessed, and I am thankful. 

"There's a lot of things that have to go right along the way. It's an honor to be able to play in the League this long, and I don't take it for granted. I'm really, really happy to have one more chance this year."

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, is the oldest player currently on an NHL roster. Forwards Jaromir Jagr (45) and Shane Doan (turns 41 on Oct. 10), the only players on NHL rosters last season who are older than Cullen, remain unsigned.

Cullen said he doesn't expect to have a decision made on retirement until after this season, but "I fully expect this to be the last one."

Selected in the second round (No. 35) of the 1996 NHL Draft by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now Anaheim Ducks), Cullen has 689 points (248 goals, 441 assists) with the Penguins, Ducks, Hurricanes, Wild, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators in 19 seasons (1,366 games). He has 56 points (18 goals, 38 assists) in 123 playoff games.

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