Matt Cullen A Perfect Fit For Penguins Fourth Line

All though this offseason will be remembered mostly for the Phil Kessel trade, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has succeeded adding talent to the team even if that move hadn’t been made.

Now in his second year as the GM, Rutherford set out not only to add another skilled winger for the top six, but to add much needed depth up front. Not just any depth, but his goal was to be able to field a lineup that is a threat to score throughout all four lines.

Seeing that both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks made it to the Stanley Cup Final and were able to roll out four lines that could put the puck in the net, he felt that would be the best way to build his team for the upcoming seasons.

So far the Penguins have done that, and then some, but with a hole left at the fourth line center spot – Rutherford made one (likely) final move to sure up that position.

A veteran of 1,212 games, Matt Cullen was signed by the Penguins on Thursday to an one year deal worth $800,000. Cullen, now 38 years old, is a familiar face for Rutherford – both were in Carolina when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. That year was statistically Cullen’s best in the NHL, as he notched 49 points, included 25 goals.

Matt Cullen A Perfect Fit For Penguins Fourth Line

Throughout his NHL career, the former second round pick by the Anaheim (then) Mighty Ducks in 1996 has two separate seasons where he scored 20 goals, six with at least 15 and six with 40 overall points.

If the Penguins were looking for a player to play on the fourth line that can successfully produce in a small role, Cullen is the perfect fit to do so. Last year, even at 37 years old, Cullen was still a productive offensive presence for the Nashville Predators, scoring 25 points (7 G, 18 A) in 65 games.

Cullen had favorable advanced numbers to be a play pushing fourth line center, with a 58.93 GF% at 5-on-5 even strength and the Predators averaged 33.63 S/60 with him on the ice (53.66 SF%).

In fact, his S/60 has increased in each of the last three seasons, showing that despite his age he is continuing to assist in driving action towards the oppositions net. Despite starting the majority of shifts in his own end over the last three years (48.93 ZSO%), Cullen has a positive SF%, GF%, and his team as averaged 3.04 GF/60 when he has been on the ice.

Maybe the biggest facet he can bring help to will be in the faceoff dot. Cullen has won 55.6% of his faceoffs over the last three seasons. The Penguins in that same span, have barely won over 50% (50.3). If his home cooking continues, Pittsburgh will have the upper hand in the possession department more times than not with Cullen on the ice, as he won 65.9% of his draws on home ice.

Due to cap constraints, this will likely be the last move Rutherford will make before training camp starts, unless it is a trade to free up money. As far as rounding out the team, they couldn’t have found a player that is more a fit than what they wanted to get, and what they still needed to add.