HURRICANES AGREE TO TERMS WITH MATT CULLEN
“Matt is a big centerman who adds a playmaking element to our forward lines,” said Rutherford. “We feel he is a valuable addition to our core group of young forwards.”
Cullen, 28, played in 36 regular-season games with Cortina of the Italian league during the 2004-05 season, scoring a league-leading 27 goals and ranking second in the league with 60 points. His 33 regular-season assists ranked tied for second in the league. In Cortina’s 18-game playoff run, Cullen scored eight goals and earned 14 assists (22 points) as Cortina fell in the league championship series to Milan. In 2003-04, Cullen (6’2”, 218 lbs.) played in 56 games with Florida, scoring six goals and adding 13 assists (19 points) while accumulating 24 penalty minutes. He underwent sports-hernia surgery following the Panthers’ first three regular-season games causing him to miss 23 consecutive contests, Oct. 15-Nov. 29. The Virginia, Minn., native posted seven points in his first 11 games after returning from the injury on Dec. 3, 2003, and played in 53 of Florida’s final 56 games.
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim drafted Cullen in the second round, 35th overall, in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. After being named a First-Team WCHA All-Star out of St. Cloud State in 1996-97, Cullen turned professional. He made his NHL debut with Anaheim on Oct. 28, 1997, and played in 61 games his rookie year, scoring six goals and adding 21 assists. In 2001-02, Cullen set career highs with 18 goals and 48 points, and tied his career high with 30 assists while playing in 79 games with the Mighty Ducks. He was traded to Florida along with Pavel Trnka and a 2003 fourth-round draft pick on Jan. 30, 2003, in exchange for Sandis Ozolinsh and Lance Ward. He played his 500th NHL game on March 6, 2004, and has scored 77 goals and 154 assists (231 points) in 513 regular-season NHL contests.
Cullen played for Hurricanes Head Coach Peter Laviolette at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s 2004 World Championships in the Czech Republic, and scored two goals and four assists (6 points) in Team USA’s nine-game march to the bronze medal. It was the fourth time Cullen had represented the United States at the World Championships.