Senators top Cullen's list

Matt Cullen hasn’t ruled out a return to the Senators.

The centre, acquired from the Hurricanes in February in exchange for defenceman Alex Picard and a second-round pick, said Monday his agent, Pat Morris, has held preliminary talks with Ottawa GM Bryan Murray about a new contract.

Cullen, 33 , who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was one of the Senators’ top performers in the playoffs, recording three goals and five assists in their first-round loss in six games to the Penguins.

He told the Sun his desire to return to Ottawa next season hasn’t changed.

“I really enjoyed my time (in Ottawa) and I’m hoping something can be worked out,” said Cullen from his Fargo, N.D., home. “It’s been pretty quiet here in the last couple of weeks, but that’s understandable, they have other issues they have to deal with.”

Of the Senators’ three potential UFAs, Cullen is the most likely to return. Defenceman Anton Volchenkov is going to get around $5 million (all terms US) a season on the open market — which prices him out of Ottawa’s range — while fellow blueliner Andy Sutton will probably get an offer that the Senators will also deem to be too rich.

After making $2.8 million last season, Cullen will be looking for something in that range. In a number of cases, the length of a contract can be as important as the money to a veteran player.

The Senators have more than $49 million committed to 17 players next season, with speculation the salary cap will climb to $58 million from $56.7 million.

Cullen was solid in his short stint with the Senators and finished the season with 16 goals and 32 assists in 81 games between Carolina and Ottawa.

Asked if he’s intrigued by testing the free-agent market, Cullen admitted he was hesitant because of the way his time in Ottawa worked out.

“I’ve reached the point in my career where I understand that the grass is not always greener,” said Cullen. “And, when you get in a situation that you really like, with a team that you fit with, you don’t want to let go of something like that.

http://www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2010/05/17/13985281.html