Rangers sign former Hurricanes center Cullen

Updated: July 1, 2006, 9:42 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Matt Cullen is going from the Stanley Cup champions to a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 1997.

Cullen, a key forward for the Carolina Hurricanes in their run to the title, signed a four-year deal with the New York Rangers on Saturday worth $11.2 million.

"We are very happy to add Matt to our lineup," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said. "He brings speed and versatility to the team, with the ability to play center or wing as well as the point on the power play."

Cullen split time between center and wing with the Hurricanes, shifting out of the middle once Carolina acquired Doug Weight midseason. He went back to center in the last two games of the finals against the Edmonton Oilers when Weight was sidelined by a shoulder injury.

The Rangers, who reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years, also signed defenseman Karel Rachunek on Saturday and agreed to terms with free agent goalie Stephen Valiquette and minor league defenseman Daniel Girardi.

New York qualified for the playoffs but was swept out of the first round by the New Jersey Devils.

Cullen, 29, had career highs with 25 goals and 49 points in 78 games last season with the Hurricanes. He was second on the team with five winning goals. In 25 postseason games, Cullen had four goals and 14 assists.

He has played in 591 NHL games, also spending time with Florida and Anaheim. For his career, Cullen has posted 102 goals and 178 assists.

The 26-year-old Rachunek returns to the Rangers after a stint in the Russian Hockey League. In 45 games with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, the defenseman had 11 goals and 20 assists. He split the season between Yaroslavl and Znojmo of the Czech Extraleague, where he scored 11 goals and set up 14 others.

During the 2003-04 season, the last before the NHL lockout, Rachunek skated in 72 games with the Rangers and Ottawa Senators -- posting two goals and 19 assists. He was acquired by New York on March 9, 2004.

He has played in 258 NHL games with Ottawa and the Rangers.

Valiquette also comes to New York by way of Yaroslavl in the Russian League. He had a 1.95 goals-against average there with a .922 save percentage and four shutouts. He also had an earlier stint in the Rangers organization, going 19-11-1 with an AHL-best 1.77 GAA in 35 games with Hartford -- New York's top minor league affiliate.

He has been in nine career NHL games with the Rangers, New York Islanders and Edmonton -- going 3-1 with a 2.57 GAA.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press