Empty Netter Assists - 08-02-10

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Happy 46th birthday to former Penguins all-star forward John Cullen (right). Undrafted after spending four years at Boston University, Cullen was a free agent signing by the Penguins in the 1988 offseason. As a rookie in 1988-89, he appeared in 79 games and produced 49 points. Helping the team reach the postseason for the first time in seven years, Cullen scored nine points in 11 playoff games. In 1989-90, Cullen took a huge step forward by scoring 32 goals and 92 points in 72 games. With Mario Lemieux sidelined due to a back ailment for most of 1990-91, Cullen was teamed on the Option Line with Mark Recchi and Kevin Stevens that season. Selected to his first all-star game, Cullen would produced 94 points in 65 games for the Penguins. At the trade deadline, he was part of arguably the most important trade in franchise history when he was sent to the Hartford Whalers along with Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski in exchange for Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson. Cullen would bounce between the Whalers and Maple Leafs over the four seasons before returning to the Penguins as a free agent in the 1994 offseason. In a lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign, Cullen appeared in 46 games and scored 37 points. In the 1995 offseason, he signed with the Lightning as a free agent. In 262 games with the Penguins, Cullen scored 272 points, 25th-most in franchise history. After retiring in 1998, Cullen owned a Dodge dealership in Newman, Ga. until it closed in 2009.

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-Happy 78th birthday to former Penguins and Pittsburgh Hornets defenseman Leo Boivin. An all-star during his days with the Bruins, Boivin came to the Penguins when he was selected from the Red Wings in the 1967 expansion draft. During the franchise's innagural season of 1967-68, he appeared in 73 games, scored 22 points and recorded a team-leading 74 penalty minutes. After 41 games and 18 points in 1968-69, Boivin was traded to the North Stars midway through the season in exchange for Duane Rupp. In 114 games with the Penguins, Boivin scored 40 points. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986.

-Happy 37th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Hans Jonsson (right). The last overall pick in the 1993 draft, Jonsson spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1999-2000, Jonsson appeared in 68 games and scored 14 points. In 2000-01, Johnson only played in 58 games and but increased his scoring to 22 points. Jonsson's numbers took a tumble in 2001-02 as he played in 53 contests and scored only seven points. His final season in Pittsburgh was 2002-03 when played in 63 games and scored five points. In the 2003 offseason, he joined MODO in his native Sweden. He has spent the past eight seasons with MODO. In 242 games with the Penguins, Jonsson scored 48 points.

Atlantic Division

-The Islanders officially bought out the final year of defenseman Brendan Witt's contract.

-Devils forward Zach Parise doesn't sound too optimistic New Jersey will discuss a contract extension with him prior to training camp. He is scheduled to become restricted free agent after next season.

Central Division

-The Blackhawks are expected to make a decision on the future of restricted free agent goaltender Antti Niemi (right) today.

Smythe Division

-Former Flyers/Oilers/Islanders/Stars/Canadiens defenseman Janne Niinimaa has joined Lulea in Sweden.

-Happy 85th birthday to former Pittsburgh Hornets forward John McCormack.

(Photos: Cullen and Jonsson-Penguins Hockey Cards; Niemi-Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

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