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Sens acquire Cullen from Carolina

by Mike G. Morreale
Even in the midst of a season-high four-game winning streak, Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford remains steadfast in his desire to upgrade his roster and stockpile his cupboard with valuable draft picks.

Less than a week after receiving a second-round pick from the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Niclas Wallin, Rutherford dealt veteran center Matt Cullen to the Ottawa Senators Friday for defenseman Alexandre Picard and another second-round pick in June.

The 'Canes now hold three second-round selections in the upcoming Entry Draft in Los Angeles. But it wasn't easy for Rutherford as Cullen played a big part in Carolina's run to the Stanley Cup in 2006.

"It's a tough position to be in," Rutherford said during a press conference. "It's not probable, but we can still make the playoffs and still make a run here. We still want a team that shows up every night, has a good work ethic and puts on a good show for the fans.

"Unfortunately, a few bad months to start the season, along with some bad economic times, are reasons why we have to make trades like this. It's especially tough to deal a player we really, really like."

Rutherford will be put in a similar position when he must make a decision on forward Ray Whitney, who has also been rumored in several trade discussions.

Picard, a restricted free agent at season's end, will be joining his fourth team in five seasons. A 2003 third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, Picard has 57 points in 184 games with the Flyers, Lightning and Senators. Despite being a native of Gatineau, Quebec, which is just across the river from Ottawa, he's excited to be joining a young team and have a chance to contribute on a nightly basis.

In 45 games with Ottawa this season, Picard had 4 goals and 15 points while averaging just over 19 minutes a game.

"I was a little surprised when I got word before practice that I had been traded but, at the same time … it wasn't that I was hoping … but things weren't working (in Ottawa)," Picard said. "I'm hoping to get a start somewhere else and I'm really excited."

Picard's ability to work the transition in the new NHL bode well in Carolina. At 24, he's still young and could benefit from the style of play that coach Paul Maurice preaches.

"We like him as a solid player, he's a consistent player," Rutherford said. "He moves the puck really well, he'll give you time on the power-play -- maybe on the second unit depending on how the team is structured. He plays pretty much the same way every game. You know what you're getting every night."

Rutherford admitted the recent transactions seen throughout the League have basically determined the market value for certain players. On Thursday, in fact, Florida dealt center Dominic Moore to Montreal for a second-round pick.

"What you're seeing here, if you're trying to tie anything together, is how the market is being established," Rutherford said. "We received a second-round pick for Nic Wallin, who, for the most part, played third defensive unit, unless we had an injury. Dom Moore was dealt for a second-rounder. The domino effect is showing what the market will be -- and it's pretty high."

Rutherford consummated the deal before Friday's Olympic roster freeze deadline of 3 p.m. The freeze is officially lifted on March 1, giving GM's three days to swing deals prior to the March 3 trade deadline.

"We like him as a solid player, he's a consistent player. He moves the puck really well, he'll give you time on the power-play -- maybe on the second unit depending on how the team is structured. He plays pretty much the same way every game. You know what you're getting every night."
-- GM Jim Rutherford on Alexandre Picard

"Matt knew something would happen, the suspense was over," Rutherford said. "All RFA's understand how this works. I've talked to Matt's agent and I don't think it's any big surprise. Only when final word comes down is it hard because we liked Matt so much -- it's a hard day for me."

"Matt was always in a good mood, he loves the game and is a team guy," Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said. "For me, being with him for (three seasons), he'll be missed for sure. But it wasn't really a shock -- it's just no fun when anyone gets traded. We became good friends so anytime you lose a friend, it's hard. There are obviously other plans for our team and we have to move forward now."

In Cullen, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, the Senators added offensive depth and playoff experience.

Cullen has 12 goals and 40 points this season; he's also second on the 'Canes with a 49.1 faceoff winning percentage. That number puts him third on the Sens, behind Mike Fisher (53.2) and Jason Spezza (49.2). Cullen also is a strong penalty killer, averaging 2:10 per game shorthanded for the Hurricanes. Ottawa already is eighth in the League in penalty killing at 83.8 percent.

In 12 seasons, the 33-year-old native of Virginia, Minn., has 165 goals and 453 points in 859 games with the Ducks, Panthers, Hurricanes and Rangers. Cullen won a Stanley Cup with the 2006 Hurricanes.

He also has 8 goals and 28 points in 57 playoff games. During the 2006 championship run, he tied for third in scoring with 18 points in 25 games.

Contact Mike Morreale at

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