In one of the least shocking, most fitting moves of the NHL offseason, Matt Cullen has joined the Pittsburgh Penguins staff in player development, the team announced Thursday.
Cullen, 42, played 21 NHL seasons, three of them in two stints with the Penguins. He was part of their 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup teams. He also played what turned out to be his final season with them, 2018-19, before announcing his retirement this summer.
Cullen already was nearly a player-coach, reflected in his nickname, “Dad,” so moving into player development would seem to make for a smooth transition. He will work with general manager Jim Rutherford and the coaching staff.
“Matt’s knowledge of the game and understanding of our organization will make him a valuable asset moving forward,” Rutherford said in a team release. “With over 20 years in the NHL and three Stanley Cups, we are certain he will continue to have a positive influence on our players.”
Cullen’s exact role wasn’t defined. It’s possible it will evolve as needed. Some development roles within the Penguins organization focus more on prospects, it seems as if Cullen’s work will be primarily at the NHL level, at least to start.
He played in 1,516 games, with 266 goals and 731 points with stops with Anaheim, Florida, Carolina, the New York Rangers, Ottawa, his native Minnesota, Nashville and the Penguins. He had another 19 goals, 58 points in 132 postseason games.
Perhaps it worked in the Penguins’ favor that his hometown Wild are in transition after just firing the GM, but Cullen and his family, including three boys, have long professed a fondness for Pittsburgh. In addition, he already was a respected leader with the Penguins and has a relationship with the staff and most of the players.
“Cully was a cerebral player with great leadership skills,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He is a natural coach who will offer great insight to our coaching staff and to our players. We look forward to adding him to our staff.”