One of Minnesota’s newest defensemen explains why he signed with the Wild.
Dmitry Kulikov is a brutish defender that has had excellent underlying numbers as of late. While he has travelled all over the continent to play in the NHL, his most recent home is with the Minnesota Wild after he signed a two-year, $5-million ($2.5-million AAV) contract shortly after free agency opened up this week.
When asked why Minnesota, Kulikov gave a very detailed answer about the negotiation process.
“We just considered the offers I’ve been getting and I felt like Minnesota would be the right fit for me at this stage in my career now,” Kulikov told media in his first availability since the singing.
“It was a two-year deal, and I was very excited when the GM called me and expressed big interest. That was very flattering. It’s always exciting when a team wants to have you in the lineup. That’s obviously a big selling point. They were very excited and that made my decision easier. I’m very excited to come and join the team.”
The most obvious connection is the Wild having a young star Russian winger in Kirill Kaprizov and having someone from his home country — unlike the Wild’s roster last season — might be beneficial for the youngster to keep getting acclimatized to North America.
“I hope it helps a lot,” Kulikov said. “I don’t know how much it could help on the ice. He’s done pretty well last year from what I saw but maybe off the ice it could help a bit. … I don’t know how much there is to learn. There’s not much difference between coming to here and living in Russia. You just focus on hockey like Kirill did. Everything else just takes care of itself.”
Before being selected 14th overall in 2009 by the Florida Panthers, Kulikov made his journey to North America and played in the QMJHL for the Drummondville Voltigeurs for one season. He made his NHL debut immediately after being drafted, playing 68 games for the Panthers in the 2009-10 season.
After seven years in Florida, Kulikov has bounced around from the Buffalo Sabres, to the Winnipeg Jets, to eventually finding himself playing for the Edmonton Oilers and the New Jersey Devils in short stints after. His solid play in Edmonton earned him a multi-year contract for the inevitable physical replacement of Ian Cole, after he signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.
But what about the Wild gives Kulikov a reason to sign with them? Well he definitely didn’t play against this new-look Minnesota squad but he did catch some glimpses.
“With the different schedule last season, you’re playing in your own division, so I haven’t paid much attention to Minnesota or just in general to other divisions and what other teams are doing,” Kulikov explained. “But I looked at the record last year and the team has done really well. I’ve seen some highlights where there were some highlight-reel goals and stuff from players. For me, it’s an exciting opportunity because coming into a new team, you’re just starting from scratch and you feel like everything is new. I don’t know, it’s exciting.”
We’re excited too, Dmitry.
With this signing (and others) the Wild are just about done their offseason checklist with just two large, significant tasks left to do: re-sign Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala to new contracts. They have the cap space, they obviously have the desire to do that, now it’s just keeping those two Very Good wingers in Minnesota and competing for the playoffs once again.