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Penguins impressed by Matt Cullen's desire to play

Pittsburgh believes 39-year-old 'has a lot of gas left in the tank'

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins would like to retain veteran forward Matt Cullen if at all possible.

After general manager Jim Rutherford signed a three-year contract Friday, he didn't rule out re-signing Cullen or defenseman Justin Schultz, who is unlikely to return. On Saturday, assistant general manager Bill Guerin said he'd like Cullen back this season.

"[The door] isn't closed, but they're obviously getting some attention," Rutherford said. "They're going to have to make a decision soon."

Video: Matt Cullen Returning to NHL for 2016-'17 Season

Rutherford signed Cullen, 39, to a one-year contract worth $800,000 on Aug. 6. Cullen pondered retirement for more than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup for a second time on June 12, when Pittsburgh defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, but decided to play a 19th NHL season.

It likely won't come with the Penguins, however, because of their limited NHL salary-cap space.

Guerin said he supports Cullen's decision, even if it takes him elsewhere.

"I sympathize with what he's going through," Guerin said. "I have a lot of respect for Matt. He's great. But I'm so happy that he's decided to play. It was the right choice because he has a lot of gas left in the tank."

Cullen scored 32 points and 16 goals last season, his highest total since scoring 16 with the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators in 2009-10. He centered Pittsburgh's fourth line throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs and scored four goals, his most since scoring four during Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup run.

Guerin, who retired one year after winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, is familiar with Cullen's position. He returned for a 2009-10 season, when he scored 45 points and 21 goals.

"I also relate to the fact that he's said he wants to play," Guerin said. "That's the thing. I think you just don't know until you get there, but when you're that close, it's also tough to keep it in perspective that once it's gone, it's gone. Because if you retire, if you quit, if you do whatever, six months down the road, you're not going to be able to just say, 'Oh, I'm going to just play again.' No, you're done."

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