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Matt Cullen Season Review: Mr. Even Keel

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Reliable pluggers are as reliable pluggers do.

Preds center and 2013 free agent acquisition Matt Cullen celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on November 21, 2013.
Preds center and 2013 free agent acquisition Matt Cullen celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on November 21, 2013.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The Stats

GP Goals Assists Points +/- PIM Shoot %
77 10 29 39 4 32 7.5
5-5 Pts/60 CF% CF% rel Sh% Sv% PDO Pen +/- per 60
1.91 50.50% +3.1% 9.30% 90.90% 100.2 -0.1

Season Summary

Acquired in free agency last summer by David Poile in the reckless splash that was touted (and regurgitated) as "a return to Predator hockey," the St. Cloud State University alumnus and journeyman pivot Matt Cullen came pretty much as advertised: a serviceable, veteran forward with solid speed, capable hands on the face-off dot (56.7%), and middling gifts for avoiding trips to the penalty box relative to the rest of the team. In other words, Cullen was the kind of guy you didn't notice much, and that was mostly a good thing because of all the noticeably bad stuff going on around him. Would I have liked more point production out of a guy who carried a $3.5 million cap hit? Sure, but it's not like he was Matt Hendricks or anything.

Highlight Moment

Cullen really turned on the offensive jets, such as they were, down the stretch, matching his goal total (5) prior to the All-Star break. His Game Tying Goal against Antti Raanta of the Chicago Blackhawks -- his 600th NHL point -- was a special one, and evidences what Cullen brings to this team: the veteran experience and presence of mind to keep driving toward the net to sniff out and bury rebounds.

The Road Ahead

Speculation is already swirling that Cullen will have an improved year offensively under new head coach Peter Laviolette next year, under whom Cullen played and won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. I won't add to that sophistry here, since we simply don't know how the aging Cullen will fare in a run-and-gun system nine (okay, eight and a half) seasons later. Jay Levin at Talking Puck argued back in December of last year that the Preds had, at the time, a good opportunity to trade Cullen before the Christmas roster freeze, and his argument made pretty good sense: Pekka Rinne was down for the count with no timetable for return, and with the number of centers we all anticipated moving at the 2014 Trade Deadline, moving Cullen before the roster freeze could've helped maximize his trade value, since the market for centermen was less diluted then than everyone expected the 2014 Trade Deadline frenzy to be. Now that there are 60 pending UFA centers headed into this summer, and taking into account that some of those are clearly better players than the others, the Preds will likely retain Cullen for the time being, who has one year remaining on his contract. He'll be 38 years old when his contract expires, and he could prove to be valuable trade bait as a veteran rental at next spring's Trade Deadline -- especially if Laviolette can turn the Titanic around and get younger guys producing at similar or higher levels to Cullen's.

OTF Staff Grades

Dirk C
Jon C+
Jason D
George C
Jeremy C+