As we continue to see the struggles for the Washington Capitals along their blue line, there is another defenseman on the trade block this article will go into some detail about. Dmitry Kulikov is a name that’s been tossed around for the last little while, and will likely be a cheap acquisition for whichever team scoops him up. He has moved around the league and hasn’t found a long-term home, and could be used as a solid rental for a playoff run. While his season with the Anaheim Ducks hasn’t been one of his best, there are still some positives in bringing him in at the trade deadline.
Who Is Dmitry Kulikov & How Does He Benefit The Capitals?
Kulikov is a 32-year-old left-shot defenseman from Lipetsk, Russia currently playing for the Ducks. He was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in the first round at 14th overall. During his rookie season, he scored three goals and 13 assists for 16 points through 68 games in the 2009-10 season. He is in his 14th season in the NHL and has played for seven different teams. This season with the Ducks, he has scored two goals and added eight assists for ten points through 52 games. He has played 857 games in his career scoring 44 goals and adding 164 assists for 208 points.
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Kulikov spent his draft year playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Drummondville Voltigeurs where he played alongside a few familiar names in Mike Hoffman, Sean Couturier and Chris DiDomenico. In 57 games with the team, he scored 12 goals and added 50 assists for 62 points. He also had the opportunity to represent Russia at the World Junior Championship, where he played seven games and had four assists. Prior to his time in the QMJHL, he spent time with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the Russia3 (now called the VHL or Vysshaya Khokkeinaya Liga) where he played 32 games and scored six goals and 13 assists for 19 points.
As a member of a rather stacked team, Kulikov was able to establish himself as a pass-first defender with a sound two-way game. While his offensive abilities didn’t carry over right away, he was able to keep himself around in the NHL by becoming a full shut-down defenseman. His career high in points came during the 2011-12 season where he had four goals and added 24 assists for 28 points through 58 games. To this day, he maintains a sound defensive game and a high hockey IQ that is noticeable during games. His veteran leadership along with his shutdown game will be an attractive combination for plenty of teams – including the Capitals – heading into the 2023 Trade Deadline.
What Would It Cost The Capitals?
Kulikov is currently in the final year of a two-year contract that expires at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. It has a $2.25 million cap hit which is very affordable for many teams but will still be a bit of a struggle for the Caps to work with. There would likely have to be some retention on the Ducks’ side in order to make the deal work. As a pending unrestricted free agent, he would end up being used as a rental that provides veteran leadership as the final push is made for a Stanley Cup run.
I think a realistic swap between the two teams sees the Capitals acquiring Kulikov with $750,000 retained by the Ducks in exchange for Conor Sheary and a 2023 seventh-round draft pick. The Ducks are looking for draft capital as a rebuilding team, and the Caps have to make sacrifices somewhere. I think getting rid of Sheary makes sense in this deal, as he is a very solid depth piece but Kulikov would be more beneficial for a playoff run.