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Matt Cullen Is Pittsburgh's Latest Analytically Savvy Signing

August 6, 2015, 6:04 PM ET [190 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
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In a bit of a surprise move the Pittsburgh Penguins have come to terms with Center Matt Cullen on a one-year 800k contract.

I really like this move a lot. Matt Cullen, despite his age (38), is still a productive NHL player. This move falls in line with the Penguins wanting to roll four scoring lines.

I wrote a piece back in May about potential UFA replacements for Brandon Sutter and Matt Cullen was on that list (so was Eric Fehr).

Pittsburgh needed to upgrade their bottom six center depth and went out and acquired three different centers that do just that.

Signing Matt Cullen now is a move that also falls in line with my logic about targeting players in the offseason as opposed to the trade deadline.

Why spend deadline assets when you can indentify successful depth players in the offseason? Pittsburgh avoided this mistake and are in a much better position to keep their draft picks this upcoming March.

Matt Cullen is a center but much like Eric Fehr he doesn't have to be

There will undoubtedly be people who are upset the Penguins signed a 38 year old depth forward instead of letting the youth play but I have no problem with it. Age doesn't matter if the player performs at an acceptable level during the term you have them for. Matt Cullen is signed for one year and as I will show you he is playing at a higher level than most people probably think.

It would be one thing if the Penguins were holding back a younger player with a high ceiling by making a signing like this, but the fact is the their forward prospect lacks one of those players outside of Daniel Sprong (who isn't close to being ready). Oskar Sundqvist playing a full year of AHL hockey isn't going to hurt him.

Pittsburgh made it loud and clear they are a win now team with the Phil Kessel trade. This is a win now move that makes sense.

So let's take an in-depth look at Pittsburgh's most recent signing, Matt Cullen.

Cullen produces offense at a first line rate during 5v5 action. This is tremendous and further cements the Penguins chosen direction of icing four scoring lines. Possession wise he is impacting his teammates at a solid second line level. Everything looks good here.

Matt Cullen is not a defensive juggernaut (not a liability either) but you can see he definitely has a positive impact on offense. Also encouraging is despite being 38 years old the trend on this chart actually has him improving in recent years.

He is certainly on the right end of this chart as well. Pittsburgh is loading up with players who fall into the blue region on this scale.

Lastly we need to see how he performed in the roles he was given. He may have good numbers as the charts above indicate, but that doesn't mean he is performing at an acceptable level in those roles.

Matt Cullen consistently outperforms the roles he has been given the last few seasons. This is great news because the role he will have in Pittsburgh will not be incredibly difficult. He should be put in a position to continue the success he has demonstrated in recent memory.

This signing is more proof that Pittsburgh has started to properly use analytics to their advantage.

It was just last year Pittsburgh trotted out Zach Sill, Craig Adams, Max Lapierre, Andrew Ebbett, and Bobby Farnham on a regular basis. Those days are gone.

Pittsburgh's forward depth is now definitely among the best in the NHL.

Thanks for reading!
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