Center Matt Cullen enjoyed a highly successful high school hockey career in his home state of Minnesota that saw his team advance to the Minnesota High School State Tournament three years in a row, including a trip to the Finals in his Senior year on the strength of his double-overtime tally. Cullen's career continued in Minnesota when he joined St. Cloud State University for the next two years where he continued to exhibit strong offensive skills that eventually caught the attention of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
The Ducks drafted Cullen in the second round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft and by the 1997-98 season he was in their lineup. Cullen played 61 games with Anaheim as a rookie and managed 27 points. Cullen provided a second line scoring presence for the Ducks, who had NHL All-Stars Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya on their first line. Over the next four years Cullen developed as an offensive player with his numbers getting better each year before the Ducks traded him away in a package deal to the Florida Panthers that saw offensive defenseman Sandis Olzonish come to Anaheim midway through the 2002-03 season.
In his first full season with the Panthers in 2003-04, Cullen was limited to 56 games and the team fell short in their attempt to qualify for the post season. However, once the 2003-04 season came to a close for the Panthers, Cullen was named to the United States World Championship team that went on to capture a bronze medal at the 2004 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.
During the off-season the former St. Cloud star was acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes. As a member of the Hurricanes, Cullen would record a career high 49 points before signing as a free agent with the New York Rangers in July, 2006. In New York Cullen nearly matched his career high point total, and helped provide leadership during the club's return to the NHL playoffs. However, during the subsequent off-season, the Rangers opted to deal Cullen back to the Carolina Hurricanes.
On February 12, 2010, Cullen was sent to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Alexandre Picard and a second round draft pick.
On July 1, 2010, as an unrestricted free agent, Cullen inked a three-year deal with the Minnesota Wild.
After three seasons Cullen signed a two year contract with the Nashville Predators for the 2013-14 season.
At the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, Cullen left Nashville and signed a one year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He would provide the Penguins with veteran leadership and help the club to the Stanley Cup title, the second title of his career, the following season.