Trade rumors aside, Wild's Cullen hopes he can stay put

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSOMRUSSO@STARTRIBUNE.COM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2013 - 12:06 AM
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Minnesota Wild's Matt Cullen and Kyle Brodziak celebrate Cullen's second goal on the Edmonton Oilers.

Photo: Jason Franson, Associated Press

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Matt Cullen is a savvy pro. At 36, in his 16th season, he knows how it works.

The trade deadline is April 3. He is in the last year of a contract that would make him an unrestricted free agent if the Wild chooses not to re-sign him.

That means, without fail, Cullen will be the subject of trade rumors for the next month.

"When I signed here three years ago, I wanted to win a Cup here. I hope we can do that this year," Cullen said. "I love it here. My family's from here. It's a great organization. I love every part of it. It's easy to get ahead of yourself and start thinking about this stuff, and I know it will be on the forefront here before long as we get closer to the deadline.

"I don't know what's going to happen. I know what I hope for, though."

Cullen hopes that the Wild continues to push for the playoffs so he doesn't go anywhere. Players like Cullen, who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, are hot commodities to playoff contenders this time of year.

He's a speedster, a leader, a versatile player and a contributor in every role. But that's what makes him so valuable to the Wild, too, which is why it may make no sense to trade Cullen, providing the Wild stays in the race.

Cullen also had 10 points in 13 games heading into Friday's game at Anaheim.

"When our game started to get going here a couple weeks ago, he ... started to help us get there," said coach Mike Yeo, who loves Cullen's work ethic, defensive-zone coverage, faceoff prowess [.556 win percentage] and strong play on the penalty kill.

"He's been a great example for us," Yeo said. "Every shift, he's just going out and doing the right thing."

Cullen had a slow start to the season, but since he switched back to his natural center position, he has felt more comfortable.

"The last 10 games, I've felt as good as I've felt in a long time," Cullen said. "My body feels great, and my legs feel really good. This is an important part of the season for us. You can either slip or turn things around and get going. I feel we're starting to do that, and it's just important that everybody elevates as much as you can."

Zucker plays in home state

Most Wild fans know that Jason Zucker is the first Nevada-raised NHLer in history. But he was actually born in Newport Beach, Calif., and moved to Las Vegas when he was 2 months old.

Friday was Zucker's first NHL game in Southern California. His former roller hockey coach, several cousins and his great-grandparents, Yvonne and Bob, attended the game. His great-grandparents are in their 70s and live in Huntington Beach. It was the first time they have seen him play live.

"It's awesome," he said before the game.

Zucker moved back to California at age 10 to play for the L.A. Hockey Club. After two years, he returned home to play for the Las Vegas Outlaws AAA team before moving to Detroit at age 15 to play for Compuware.

Konopka new player rep

Since center Zenon Konopka was the only Wild player to attend a bargaining session during the lockout, it shouldn't come as a shock that no Wild player raised his hand and volunteered to be the new player rep once Darroll Powe was traded last month to the Rangers.

So ... Konopka replaces Powe, who replaced traded Nick Schultz last year.

"Everyone else volunteered me for it," Konopka said. "They had a vote without me and voted I should be the new rep."

Konopka, scratched in four of the past five games, played Friday. Mikael Granlund was scratched. On the back end, Nate Prosser played for Justin Falk.

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