Moorhead High School product and lifelong Minnesotan Matt Cullen now plays for the Nashville Predators and not the Minnesota Wild. He doesn't blame friends and former teammates Zach Parise and Ryan Suter for that.
Conventional wisdom might suggest the reason for Cullen's departure was because of a payroll squeeze brought on by the huge contracts signed last summer by Suter and former University of North Dakota standout Parise. They signed identical 13-year deals worth $98 million each.
But Cullen blames the NHL lockout that lasted from September 2012 to January 2013. He doesn't point to the Parise and Suter deals.
"I don't really think so. I know a lot of people would probably think that but the thing that realistically had the biggest effect was the lockout," Cullen said on the "Mike McFeely Show" this week. "Coming out of the lockout the salary cap changed for everybody, down $7 million per team. That puts quite a squeeze on teams.
"I was helping as much as I could to get Ryan and Zach here. I was on the phone with them doing everything I could do get them here. I think it was more of a salary cap squeeze because of the lockout."
Cullen played 193 games with the Wild, scoring 33 goals and tallying 101 points. Being that he still considers himself a Moorhead/Fargo guy and his family has a lake cabin in Minnesota, playing for the Wild was perfect. And leaving is tough.
"It's sad to leave. I loved it here. Thi s is home for me and being able to play here for three years is pretty special," Cullen said. "It's one of those things where both sides wanted it to work out for me to stay here, but with the salary cap and things of that nature it just wasn't able to be worked out."
The Wild did not make Cullen an offer. He signed a two-year deal with Nashville for $7 million.
Cullen is 36 and in the NHL for 15 seasons (Anaheim, Florida, Carolina, New York Rangers, Ottawa and Minnesota). He is healthy and looking forward to the next couple of years in Nashville, but knows this could be his last contract.
"I don't really think about it yet, but it very well could be," he said. "Any person who gets to be my age, 36 years old in the NHL, is getting older. I think you are kidding yourself if you don't at least entertain the idea that this might be your last contract."