Veteran NHL center Matt Cullen, 42, joins Penguins front office after retirement

Longtime NHL center Matt Cullen, who played three of the past four seasons with the Penguins, will move into Pittsburgh’s hockey operations department in a player development role, executive VP and GM Jim Rutherford announced Thursday.

For more than two decades, Cullen appeared in 1,516 games with the Ducks, Panthers, Hurricanes, Rangers, Senators, Wild, Predators and Penguins, putting the Virginia, Minnesota, native second in games played by an American-born player, behind only Chris Chelios (1,651), and 19th overall in NHL history.

In Cullen’s 21-season NHL career, he recorded 731 regular-season points (266 goals, 465 assists) and was part of three Stanley Cup winning teams: Carolina (2006) and Pittsburgh (2016 and ’17).

In total, Cullen played in 132 career playoff games, registering 58 points (19 goals, 39 assists).

“Matt’s knowledge of the game and understanding of our organization will make him a valuable asset moving forward,” Rutherford said in a statement. “With over 20 years in the NHL and three Stanley Cups, we are certain he will continue to have a positive influence on our players.”

Cullen recorded 36 goals and 47 assists for 83 points in 225 regular-season games with the Penguins. He served as an alternate captain in parts of each of his three seasons with Pittsburgh, and his seven shorthanded goals during that span were more than any other Penguin.

In his new role, Cullen will work closely with Rutherford, coach Mike Sullivan and his staff.

“Cully was a cerebral player with great leadership skills,” Sullivan in a statement. “He is a natural coach who will offer great insight to our coaching staff and to our players. We look forward to adding him to our staff.”

Originally drafted by the Ducks in the second round (35th overall) of the 1996 NHL Draft, Cullen recorded 10 or more goals in 16 of his 21 seasons, including a career-best 25 goals during the Hurricanes’ 2005-06 championship season. He also eclipsed the 40-point mark seven times.