Pens want Cullen to return next season

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Matt Cullen is oldest active player in this year’s playoffs, an achievement unto itself.

But the 39-year-old seemingly isn’t content with just being the resident greybeard. He’s playing at a pretty high level.

He’s racked up five points through nine games, averaging 15:22 TOI per night, and has become a real thorn in Washington’s side.

How thorny? To the point where, after Game 4, Caps head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged Cullen’s “having a hell of a series against us,” per Sportsnet.

Cullen will have a chance to extend his postseason on Saturday, when the Pens look to eliminate the Caps — but his GM is thinking about extending things well beyond these playoffs.

More, from Sportsnet:

[Cullen] has his own three sons running around the Penguins dressing room after games, and they’re old enough to experience and enjoy this playoff run, too.

The natural question is what happens next? [Pens GM Jim] Rutherford believes he’ll still be good at age 40 – “I do want him to return, but we’ll deal with that at the appropriate time” – although Cullen seems somewhat less certain about his future.

As good as he’s played and is playing, it’s not out of the question we’re watching his final games.

Cullen played this season on a one-year, $800,000 deal, which ranks among Rutherford’s best moves of the campaign. He appeared in all 82 games, scoring 16 goals and 32 points, and finished second to Sidney Crosby in faceoffs won.

Looking ahead, though, it’s fair to suggest this could be his swan song, as Pittsburgh is pretty loaded at center. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino are all fairly entrenched — and under contract — and it looks like young Oscar Sundqvist is ready to push for a spot as well.

There’s always the possibility of going to free agency, though that seems the least likely route for Cullen.