A former first-round draft pick with the Florida Panthers joins Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers, Dmitry Orlov of the Washington Capitals and Jake Gardiner of the Toronto Maple Leafs on a short list of promising, young defensemen rumored to be on the NHL trade block.
"Kulikov has been available for most of this year but the Panthers are kicking it up, very aggressively shopping him, and trying to get an auction going for a 23-year-old defenceman who was picked 14th overall in the 2008 draft. Kulikov though has two knocks against him. One, he hasn't been developing and playing particularly well for Florida and two, he's a restricted free agent at the end of the year and there are fears that because he has the KHL option as a Russian, he might go back there instead of playing in the NHL."
That being said, the feeling is that he is worth the risk for many. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun believes Kulikov is "certainly worth a gamble", and other rumblings indicate teams are talking to Florida GM Dale Tallon about the talented, puck-moving D-man.
With a look to recent history, Elliotte Friedman of the CBC proposes the Maple Leafs might be in the mix:
"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?”
There is no doubt Kulikov would reap great advantage from a fresh start -- in reality and in fantasy play. Not only is he saddled with competing for one of the worst teams in the league, but the young Russian is also apparently not working well with new Panthers coach Peter Horachek. Like most developing D-men, Kulikov has hit rough patches in the past, but not to this extent (three points in 27 games).
Hooking up with the Maple Leafs -- or the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, etc. -- would go a long way in getting Kulikov back on the right, previously forecast, track. This lad has the tools and talent to earn a point every couple of games in the NHL. If a transaction seems imminent, you may want to take a gamble on him in your fantasy league.