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Parise thrilled to have Cullen join Wild

Forward says veteran center makes them 'deep down the middle'

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- Count Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise among those thrilled to have center Matt Cullen as a teammate.

Cullen, 40, is entering his 20th season in the NHL after signing a one-year, $1 million contract with the Wild on Wednesday.

"[You] can't win without good centers," Parise said. "You need to be deep down the middle, and teams that are winning are proving that. He'll help us."

The Wild needed a fourth-line center after the Vegas Golden Knights selected Erik Haula in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21. Rookie fowards Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin are options, but Cullen's experience and past success could prove to be a bigger asset.

Cullen has won 54.69 percent of his faceoffs since 2009-10 and won 51.22 percent with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season (56.4 percent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs). He had 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 72 games in 2016-17, helping the Penguins repeat as champions.

Parise said Cullen's veteran presence in general should elevate the Wild, a relatively young team, to the next level.

Video: Zach Parise on the Wild's offseason transactions

"Whenever you get a guy like that, who's been a part of winning it two years in a row, that's pretty special," Parise said. "Hopefully he can shed some light on that and what we need to do to get our team there."

Cullen, a Virginia, Minnesota, native who lives in Moorhead, Minnesota, with his wife and three sons during the offseason, will be playing with the Wild for the second time. He had 101 points (33 goals, 68 assists) in 193 games with Minnesota from 2011-13.

Former NHL forward Mark Parrish remembers having discussions with Cullen about their NHL dreams while the two were teammates at St. Cloud State University from 1995-97.

"It was always our goal to make it play just one game. Get one chance," Parrish, 40, said Wednesday between games in Da Beauty League at Braemar Arena, where he is a coach. "Now that guy has three Stanley Cups and is still playing in the pros; it's beyond dreams.

"It's like he found the fountain of youth and he's not sharing with me."

Cullen, a three-time Stanley Cup winner (Penguins, 2016, 2017; Carolina Hurricanes, 2006) is the oldest player on an NHL roster. Forwards Jaromir Jagr (45) and Shane Doan (who turns 41 on Oct. 10), the only players on NHL rosters last season who are older than Cullen, remain free agents.

"His commitment, his day-to-day routine, everything about what he does makes him a professional, and makes it possible for him to still be playing today," said Parrish, who had 387 points (216 goals, 171 assists) in 722 NHL games with the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Wild, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres from 1998-2011. "His work ethic sets him apart. He's one of the true workhorses in the NHL."

 Video: The crew discusses Matt Cullen signing with the Wild

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