The details are hard to pin down, but, at some point last season, the Florida Panthers came pretty close to pulling off a deal that would have sent Dmitry Kulikov to Toronto. One of the teams backed away. But it would come as no surprise to see this conversation rekindled. Kulikov certainly has talent yet is inconsistent. Could he benefit from a change?
One of the worst kept secrets in hockey these days is the Panthers are looking into the possibility of trading Kulikov. Bob McKenzie said in TSN’s “Insider Trading” segment last night that the Panthers were holding an “auction” to see what they could get for the 23-year-old d-man. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun tweeted that the Panthers made Kulikov a healthy scratch in their game against the Senators last night specifically because they’re pushing hard for a trade.
If Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is indeed fielding offers for the former 14th overall pick in 2009, should Dave Nonis and the Leafs be involved?
The Leafs could definitely use some help on the back-end. The team is horrendous in limiting opponents’ shot attempts, and Kulikov has been a positive shot differential player this year and almost every other year of his career. His offensive numbers have hit a wall the past couple of years, but he’s still generating a pretty high number of shots for a defenseman, and his skating ability makes him a clear upgrade over Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger at the very least.
Panthers fans have been pretty clearly disappointed in Kulikov’s play and have made him a whipping boy of sorts for the team’s troubles. But Kulikov is still averaging almost 20 minutes a night, and is only behind Brian Campbell and Tom Gilbert on the blue-line in average five-on-five ice time. He’s had his issues with penalties and turnovers, but it’s not like he’s getting buried under shot attempts, either.
Nonis should be re-opening the lines of communication with Tallon at the very least if he’s shopping Kulikov. Maybe the Panthers were asking too much for his liking last year, or maybe Nonis didn’t offer enough. We don’t know. I wouldn’t do anything crazy like trading Nazem Kadri or Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly for him, but if the asking price is reasonable, I wouldn’t mind seeing another young talented defenseman in the Leafs’ system at all.
What say you?