StaTuesday: NHL's oldest active player, Wild's Cullen climbing ranks in games
While the hockey world weeps for Jaromir Jagr, off to play in his native Czech Republic after half an injury-shortened season with the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cullen officially has a new title: The oldest player in the NHL.
Perhaps the 46-year-old Jagr will return someday after his sabbatical with HC Kladno (which he owns) in the Czech second division, but for now the 41-year-old native of Moorhead, Minn., is officially the league's elder statesman.
For his part, Cullen seemed pretty nonplussed by the news at the time.
"I've been the oldest guy in the room for quite a while … it is what it is," he said. "It's been mentioned a few times."
Cullen was the oldest member of the Pittsburgh Penguins during their back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017. Known as "dad" in the Penguins' locker room, Cullen has been in the NHL since 1997, the year current teammate Joel Eriksson Ek was born.
He's one of four 40-year-olds to play in the NHL this season, joining Jagr and defenseman Mark Streit, who retired in October after making two appearances for the Montreal Canadiens.
Cullen and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who will turn 41 next month, are the last ones left standing.
The Wild's super-vet has played in 1,423 regular-season games since joining the league in 1997, fifth amongst active players, via hockey-reference.com. However, "active" is somewhat loosely defined.
Of the four players in front of Cullen, only two are currently on an NHL roster. Jagr was waived earlier this month, while Jarome Iginla remains a free agent.
If Cullen opts to play another season -- he was reportedly contemplating retirement before signing with the Wild last summer -- he could still pass Hall of Famer Phil Housley for most games all-time by a Minnesota-born player.
Cullen is just 72 games behind Housley, and would surpass the former Buffalo Sabres great next season. For the record, Wild forward Zach Parise is 13th on this list with 850 games played.
Cullen also ranks 23rd among American-born players with 123 appearances in the playoffs. That's more than any other St. Cloud State alumni and fourth most for a Minnesotan. A deep run for the Wild this spring could help Cullen surpass Broten, Shjon Podein or even Langenbrunner, who won two Stanley Cups himself in 1999 with the Stars and 2003 in New Jersey.