A Contract Extension for Matt Cullen?

Matt Cullen
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Matt Cullen has done an excellent job on the second line at the center position while Evgeni Malkin has been out with a lower-body injury.  Will the Pittsburgh Penguins reward him with a contract extension?

Cullen is one of the few Penguins who are slated to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) this summer.  If you look at his body of work this season, and compare it against his salary (and associated cap hit), I think you’d have to say that he’s been one of the most valuable Penguins this season.

The Pens have a lot of money tied up in their forwards, as they sit about $1.5 million under the salary cap according to generalfanager.com.  Of those forwards, there are only two veterans on the team that come in under $1 million in salary, and those are Matt Cullen and Kevin Porter.  Both, coincidentally, are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Cullen is earning $800,000, which is about 1% of the team’s current end of season projected cap total of roughly  $73.5 million.  Now, let’s look at his point total, versus the entire Penguins’ team point total.  Through 58 games this season, Cullen has 19 points.  Compare that to the Penugins’ total of 408 points, and you’ll see that Cullen’s points are about 4.6% of the team’s total.  1% of the team’s payroll generating almost 5% of the team’s points.  Not a bad return on investment if you ask me.

It’s not just the points that Cullen is generating either.  Let’s look at two other factors that come into play with him.  First off, he’s a veteran presence in the locker room.  The Pens have quite a few rookies in their lineup these days, and those young players can certainly benefit from a 20-year NHL veteran’s wisdom and work ethic.

The second factor to look at here is why he’s still on the ice, playing second-line center.  He’s remained healthy.  Now certainly, injuries happen and a player isn’t to be blamed for getting injured.  Many times it is just a freak accident that happens to remove a player from the ice for an extended period of time.  But, the fact is that Cullen has remained healthy this season and is producing at 39 years of age.

Assuming that Cullen wants to play again in the NHL next season, the Pens should extend the offer to him now.  Teams won’t be lining up at Cullen’s door first to sign him come July 1, mostly based on his age.  But given how he’s helped the Pens through a time when three of their top centermen went down with injury, and the value we’ve seen from him, he should be extended an offer to remain with the organization for one more year.

What do you think Penguins fans?