Dmitry Kulikov's wants to forget all about the year he spent in Buffalo. The new member of the Winnipeg Jets admits his most recent NHL season was easily the worst of his pro career and he's anxious to prove it was simply a blip rather than a trend. Kulikov, a 6-1, 205-pound defenceman with more than 500 NHL games behind him, was signed Saturday by Winnipeg to a three-year deal, with an average annual value of US$4.33 million. That's a lot of dough for a player who played just 47 games last season due to a recurring back issue, scored just twice and added three assists. But other teams were courting the Russian-born former first-round pick (14th overall) of Florida in 2009 who spent six seasons with the Panthers— scoring 28 goals and 138 points — before being dealt to the Sabres last summer. Winnipeg coveted a left-shooting defenceman and got the deal done with Kulikov, who demonstrated in Florida he has the ability to be a steady, puck-moving rear-guard. In the Panthers' last playoff appearance (2016), he had a goal and three assists in a six-game series the team dropped to the New York Islanders. Kulikov, 26, said his stint with the Sabres is not a true indicator of his worth, adding he's excited about a new start in Winnipeg. "From the beginning of my career in Florida, we didn't have a good team. We didn't have a strong fan base. Then I felt my last two seasons with the Panthers, the team was on the rise. It was fun to come to the rink and it was fun to play," Kulikov said during a conference call from Boca Raton, Fla. "Then, going to Buffalo, it was tough. Going from a team that was successful and a playoff team and going to Buffalo, it kind of set me back. "Winnipeg is a team that I feel like, in the near future, could be contending for the Stanley Cup. I'm excited to join. Like I said, it was a huge part of my decision. To join a team that's moving in the right direction in the very near future." He joins a defensive unit that includes right-shooting Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers (who missed most of last season due to injuries and a family health issue) and Jacob Trouba, and lefties Josh Morrissey, Toby Enstrom and Ben Chiarot, who just a week ago inked a new two-year contract with an average annual value of $1.4 million.
Kulikov excited about new start with Jets
Winnipeg Free Press | Jul 5