It’s common to see free agents that are in the latter stages of their respective careers try to go to teams that have a chance to win the Stanley Cup every year. That’s why when 36-year-old Matt Cullen decided to sign with the Nashville Predators a few weeks ago, it could have been seen as a surprising move by some.
After all, the Predators are coming off of one of the worst seasons in franchise history after finishing 14th in the Western Conference with a 16-23-9 record and landing the fourth overall pick in the draft. Still, Cullen was confident enough in the team to make a commitment for the next two seasons.
“You look at the success they’ve had over the last five, six, seven years, they’re a legitimate contender. I understand last year was a tough year with the injuries. There are some things that you just can’t overcome when you’re dealing with major injuries like that,” Cullen said.
The Predators weren’t really on Cullen’s radar until just a few days before he signed. Cullen had played for the Minnesota Wild, his home state team, for the past three seasons and thought that’s where he would end up again next season. That wasn’t the case, however, and he ended up choosing to play in Nashville.
“It was a good fit for me. Truthfully, all along I had somewhat expected to end up back in Minnesota after being there a few years. About July 3 leading into free agency, we figured out that that wasn’t going to work out. I looked at a few different spots, and Nashville to me seemed like the best fit,” Cullen said.
Cullen has been to the top of the mountain once before in his career with the Carolina Hurricanes when they won the Stanley Cup in the 2005-06 season. It was a team in a very similar market to Nashville, and it’s that sort of success that Cullen is looking forward to again before his NHL career is done.
“You don’t have many opportunities to win, and I was fortunate enough to win once,” Cullen said. “Once you do that, the only thing you’re concerned with is trying to get back there.”
Cullen should be a welcome addition to a Predators team that was dead last in the league in offense last season. He’s a player that will likely get some top line minutes and has the ability to put up some points offensively. Cullen prides himself on being a hard-working player, and that’s one of the big reasons he was attracted to Nashville in the first place.
“It’s just one of those things where you look at some organizations and know they’re always going to be there,” Cullen said. “[Nashville] has become one of those, which is a real complement to them. It’s through sheer hard work that they’ve gotten here, and for me that’s something I can relate to and that I would enjoy being a part of.”