The Pittsburgh Penguins recently signed Matt Cullen to a one-year, $650,000 contract for a second tour of duty with the team. He will turn 42 on November 2. At some point in January or February he will become the oldest player in Penguins’ franchise history. That distinction is currently held by Tim Horton, yes the Tim Horton of coffee and donut fame. Horton played one season with the Penguins in 1971-72 at age 42. His last game with the Penguins was on April 9, 1972 at age 42 years, 2 months and 28 days. Gary Roberts comes in a close second as runner-up to the oldest player in franchise history. His last game was in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final on June 4, 2008 at age 42 years, 0 months, and 12 days.
Horton and Roberts are part of a very exclusive group in Penguins’ franchise history. There have only been six Penguins players to have laced up their skates at age 40 or older: Cullen during his first stint, Horton, Roberts, Mario Lemieux, Joe Mullen, and Ken Schinkel. Interestingly, Schinkel actually retired after playing 42 games during the 1972-73 season, at the age of 40, to become the Penguins’ head coach after Red Kelly was fired.
The stats for these players at age 40+ are mixed. Some players still played at a relatively high level, while the production of others tailed off. Horton was a defenseman, but his 11 points (2G, 9A) were the third-lowest total of his career. Schinkel never was a prolific right wing, but he had a respectable 21 points in 42 games during his age 40 season with Pittsburgh. During his age-40 season, which was split between Florida and Pittsburgh, Roberts played a combined 69 games, recording 42 points (20G, 22A). However, his 41-year-old season saw a decline. He only played 38 games for the Penguins, recording just 15 points (3G, 12A). Lemieux played only 26 games at the age of 40, recording a respectable 22 points (7G, 15A) before being forced to retire for a final time because of a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation. Cullen, during his 40-year-old season with the Penguins, played in 72 games, recording an admirable 31 points (13G, 18A) playing in a mostly fourth-line role.
While the Penguins have only had six players skate at age 40 or older, there are numerous Penguins alumni that skated at age 40 or older in the NHL. In fact, including the players mentioned above, a total of 15 Penguins alumni skated in the NHL at age 40 or older. That is an impressive number considering that only 87 players in the history of the NHL have played at age 40 or older.
Many of the Penguins alumni that played at age 40 or older are recognizable names, but some are not. For instance, Dean Prentice was a left wing that played for the Penguins 1969-71, which were his age 37 and 38 seasons. He was a rather productive player during his time in Pittsburgh, recording 89 points in 144 games. He went on to play until the age of 41, finishing out his career with the Minnesota North Stars. Another forgotten name from Penguins’ history that played past age 40 was defenseman Noel Price. He manned the Penguins’ blue line from 1967-69 and went on to play five more seasons after leaving Pittsburgh, flaming out his career with Atlanta at the age of 40.
The complete list of Penguins Alumni to play in the NHL at age 40 or older is shown below:
|Jaromir Jagr||45 years, 319 days||2017||Calgary|
|Tim Horton||44 years, 39 days||1974||Buffalo|
|Mark Recchi||43 years, 134 days||2011||Boston|
|Gary Roberts||42 years, 282 days||2009||Tampa Bay|
|Matt Cullen||41 years, 243 days||Present||Minnesota Wild
|Dean Prentice||41 years, 84 days||1973||Minnesota North Stars|
|Ron Francis||41 years, 62 days||2004||Toronto|
|Sergei Gonchar||40 years, 355 days||2015||Montreal|
|Kjell Samuelsson||40 years, 180 days||1999||Tampa Bay|
|Mario Lemieux||40 years, 72 days||2005||Pittsburgh|
|Luc Robitaille||40 years, 59 days||2006||Los Angeles|
|Joe Mullen||40 years, 56 days||1997||Pittsburgh|
|Larry Murphy||40 years, 46 days||2001||Detroit|
|Ken Schinkel||40 years, 45 days||1973||Pittsburgh|
|Noel Price||40 years, 40 days||1976||Atlanta Flames|
The Penguins aren’t looking for Cullen to play top-line minutes or be an offensive force. If the Penguins can get the same 31 points (13G, 18A) that they got from Cullen during his age 40 season they will be elated. Cullen is currently 29th all-time in points among American-born players with 711. Barring injury, Cullen will likely hold one more distinction once the upcoming season ends — oldest player in Penguins’ history. Surely, he hopes he’ll also be holding the Stanley Cup at season’s end.