The Minnesota Wild have a bunch of free agents, but none may be more interesting than Matt Cullen.
The 36-year-old center signed a three-year deal with the team in the summer of 2010. It marked the first time in his NHL career that he would play half the season in his native Minnesota.
“I’ve got a smile on my face that I can’t wipe off,” he said after signing with the Wild. “I know that there’ll be expectations and a little added pressure from outside sources, but that’s just going to kind of add to the excitement and challenge of it.”
The former St. Cloud State Husky was able to fit in a lot better than previous native Minnesotans on the Wild roster. He ranks ahead of current teammate Tom Gilbert, current Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, former college teammate Mark Parrish and others.
Three years later, the Wild have few roster spots and few players that play with his speed and responsibility.
Fletcher has a difficult decision to make on seven unrestricted free agents, but has a little over a month to get it sorted out.
“We’ll sit down and talk with all of them and see whether they want to be here and what they’re looking to do and see what fits,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said after the conclusion of the playoffs. “We’ll obviously have to make some decision, but before, we have to break down our year and see where we need to put the money the most.”
Whether or not the Wild can find a way to re-sign him, it is a two-way street.
“I’m going to need some time to sit down and think, to spend some time with family and take a step back,” Cullen said after the team’s end of the season press conference. “You never want to make a decision when you’re disappointed or emotional. Those emotions are still pretty raw from losing a couple of nights ago. I’ll take some time to think things over.”
Number: 7; Height: 6-1; Weight: 200; Hometown: Moorhead, Minnesota; 2012-13 Salary: $3,500,000 ($3,500,000 cap hit).
2012-13 regular season statistics: 42 games, 7 goals, 20 assists, plus-9 rating, 10 penalty minutes, 79 shots on goal
2012-13 playoff statistics: 5 games, 3 assist, plus-1 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 8 shots on goal
Outlook: He was, arguably, the Wild’s team MVP last season. His versatility to play center or wing, the power play or penalty kill and shootouts make him a valuable commodity. He may not be the first player the Wild re-sign, but he should be one of the top priorities.