Friday, July 1, 2016

Dmitri Kulikov Autographed Card

The Montréal Canadiens aren't the only team making puzzling decisions this summer; the Edmonton Oilers are widely criticized for having traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson instead of, say, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, although if they do end up landing Milan Lucic, the hole left by Hall's departure wouldn't be so bad (though RNH is still an extra center they have no real need for).

I wasn't too kind on the Florida Panthers' recent moves myself, and that was before they traded Dmitri Kulikov to the Buffalo Sabres. Honestly, I don't get it. They won't be stupid enough to get rid of Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau or Aleksander Barkov, but now I fear for Roberto Luongo's job security.

A first-round draft pick (14th overall in 2009) that had played under coach Patrick Roy with the Québec Remparts, the 25-year old had just found his complete game with the Panthers. He was the ideal complement to Ekblad and they made a nice pair of two-way defenders. Before Ekblad's arrival, he had had to shoulder most of the even-strength offense, scoring 8 goals in 2013-14 (Brian Campbell handled much of the powerplay time); since Ekblad's arrival, Kulikov had become his set-up man, posting seasons of 19 and 16 assists.

With the Sabres, he joins the likes of Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe, and Cody Franson. With highly-paid veterans Brian Gionta, Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Moulson, Evander Kane (edit: and now Kyle Okposo!) and young guns Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, and Nicolas Deslauriers, something will eventually have to give and many of those veterans will no longer be on the team within the next two or three years.

I'm not sure what that will mean for Kulikov, but I would take him on my team any day. At $4.3M per year, he's the ideal second pairing left defenseman who can fill in on the top unit admirably in case of injury.

Here he is in the Cats' beautiful alternate uniform from just a few years ago, on card #211 from Panini's 2011-12 Score set:
Notice how he's referred to on it with the alternate spelling "Dmitry"; he signed it in blue sharpie a couple of years ago after a game against the Habs at the Bell Centre.

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