The Curious Case of Matt Cullen

With this week’s GM meetings and a rapidly approaching trade deadline, it’s time for Mr. Fletcher to make decisions on a few players. It remains to be seen what will be done with Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and I’m sure Nicklas Backstrom would be welcomed back next season with a smaller contract than his current $6mil/season. Chuck Fletcher’s biggest conundrum may be what to do with Moorhead native, Matt Cullen.

Perched atop the Northwest Division, the Wild are not going to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. So unless Chuck Fletcher is blown away by an offer for Matt Cullen, he’ll play out his current contract as a member of the Wild. Cullen’s contract has been the subject of criticism his three years in Minnesota, because he’s a streaky player who sometimes looks like the best player on the ice, and other times can be invisible. Despite the argument that he hasn’t lived up to his $3.5mil cap number, he’s proven that he’s worth more than that in this truncated season.

With a game predicated on speed and defensive responsibility, it’s hard to imagine that Cullen can maintain this level of production for much longer. That said, Cullen has been unstoppable since being paired with Devin Setoguchi on the second line. His surge in production correlates with the team’s surge in the standings. He’s on pace to be more productive than any season he’s had in a Wild sweater, averaging .67pts/gm this season, and he’s 36. The question that must be asked though, is what level of production can he maintain and how much is it worth?

Cullen is great in the community, from all accounts a great teammate, and he likes playing in Minnesota. While I don’t think this equates to a hometown discount, I think a salary in his current range of $3.5mil/year is reasonable for what he’s produced. Personally, I’d like to see a one year deal as youngster insurance, but he may have to be extended two years with a relatively weak UFA class for centers. It’s very likely Cullen would be offered a two year deal in free agency.

There are a few glaring reasons why I believe it’s imperative to re-sign Cullen. Granlund has shown he’s not ready yet, and with his talent, it is unwise to rush his development. Additionally, Johan Larsson looked pedestrian while he enjoyed his cup of coffee in the NHL. Both of these guys are a little ways off, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to step into the 2nd line center role next year. That leaves Kyle Brodziak as the team’s 2nd line center, which he’s not suitable for.

With around $13.5mil in cap space for next season, with 7 spots left to fill, the Wild have the room to re-sign Cullen. If the Wild sign Cullen at $3.5mil/yr it may be tough to fill 6 additional roster spots with around $8.5mil, (GMCF likes to have wiggle room) but the Wild can’t afford to lose Matt Cullen.


  1. I don't think Cullen commands anywhere near $5M, but all good reasons to keep him. But at his age, it's hard to justify extending him even at his current salary.

    Owen Nolan got two years at $4M per for his stint here, that's probably the max Cullen should get. I'd like him to stay for all the reasons you named, though. But the price point is key, and $5M is a stretch.

  2. I don't think he'll get $5mil... sorry that part of the article is a little confusing. I think $3.5mil/yr is about right... I figured in about $1.5mil in wiggle space for Fletch to keep.

  3. I love Cullen (right now) and want him re-signed...BUT

    We've seen him tail off pretty badly the last couple seasons.

    2010-11 through Jan = 31pts in 46gms (0.67ppg)
    2010-11 after Jan = 8pts in 32gms (0.25ppg)

    2011-12 through Jan = 29pts in 49gms (0.59ppg)
    2011-12 after Jan = 6pts in 24gms (0.25ppg)

    I think this short season will be good for Cullen and give him another year, maybe two, based on his play. But I do think he's to the point he can't handle a full season's wear and tear.

    I would offer him a one year contract at $2m and max of $2.5m, but nothing longer.

    1. Can't disagree with anything there. He's been super streaky in his 3 years here. I'd love to get him at a 2-2.5mil 1 year term, but a weak UFA market might dictate more for Cullen considering his current production.

      That's really the gray area... do you re-sign the guy @ 3.5 and hope for his current production, or do you offer him 2.5 based on projection?

    2. I'd offer him $2-2.5m with hopes he'd take a hometown discount. Literally. Staying here with his family might be worth $500k to $1m.

      I'm not sure about Fletch not wanting to talk to Cullen and Backs about re-upping now. Is he worried they will stop playing as hard if they get contracts? All he's doing is driving up the price. I thought a month ago they could get Backs for $2.5m per for two years, now I'd guess it's up to $3.5m per two years, and if he keeps it up, he could be looking at another 3+ year contract at $4m+. This is exactly what happened with Backstrom the first time around, and Riser didn't talk to him until after he got the All Star nod and his price went way up.

  4. Seto has another year on his deal, and who wants to break them up now?

    I think Matt would like to stay, and probably would consider some hometown discount on a two year deal.

    If we get hard up for cap space, we can always amnesty buy-out Heater.