It’s mid-August and the Pittsburgh Penguins are still without a third line center… or a fourth line center for that fact. Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford has been playing the patience game. It will be a matter of time to find out if the patience game has been playing him.
It is still undecided if the right move will come along for a third line center or if Rutherford will be forced to look internally to fill that role. A decision is not expected to be made until Matt Cullen decides his future.
Cullen handled the fourth line duties for the last two seasons. It was just about this time last year when Cullen announced that he would be returning to Pittsburgh (August 17th).
Just like last year, he has yet to make a decision about returning until mid-August. He has three choices at the moment: Play for the Penguins, play for the Minnesota Wild, or call it a career. If he decides to leave for the Wild or hang’em up, it will leave the Penguins with little to no options to fill the fourth line role.
Carter Rowney is a likely candidate to prove himself in that role, and he has looked perfectly capable of filling the void Cullen could leave. However, Cullen brought a bit more of a scoring touch to the Pens than Rowney did.
Will the patience game pay off for the GM? We shall see, but I would not doubt the man who has put together the previous two Stanley Cup Champions off the ice. He has earned the benefit of the doubt and Cullen has earned some time to decide after winning back-to-back Cups ON the ice.