Oilers Acquire Kulikov From Devils

The Edmonton Oilers have acquired defenseman, Dmitri Kulikov from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

If the Oilers win a playoff round, the fourth-round pick will convey into a third round pick in 2022.

Kulikov signed with the Devils as a free agent in the 2020 off season. He has had a bit of a career renaissance this season, and has provided high quality defensive play for the struggling team. The 30-year-old from Lipetsk, Russia recently passed the 700 game milestone while playing for the Devils. He’s made previous career stops with the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets.

What Do the Oilers Get With Kulikov?

The Oilers have gotten themselves a guy who has posted fantastic possession numbers as a defender this season. He did not provide a lot of points but his possession play at both ends of the ice is something that will definitely help the Oilers. With Oscar Kelfbom out for the remainder of the season due to shoulder surgery, the Oilers have had to increase the workload on Darnell Nurse. Nurse has risen to the challenge, but behind him, left-handed defenders Kris Russell and Caleb Jones have struggled at times.

Kulikov gives the Oilers some flexibility on the left side of their defensive corps. He has been fantastic at 5-on-5 this season but also played big minutes for the Devils on their penalty kill. He can play second or third pairing comfortably. If they were to deploy him with Adam Larsson as a true shut-down pairing, it could prove very formidable and obnoxious to play against. Oilers fans will enjoy Kulikov’s willingness to crash and bang when necessary combined with the awareness to not hang his partner or goaltender out to dry when he decides to do so.

As long as the Oilers’ pro scouting department and video scouting team have done their homework on what made Kulikov successful with the Devils, they have gotten themselves a very nice piece for a North Division playoff run.

Devils Will Miss Kulikov

It was surprising to see how well Kulikov adapted to the system Lindy Ruff implemented in New Jersey. After some difficult years with the Jets, this one-year deal with the Devils was a shot at rejuvenating his career. He has done just that, and in spite of their struggles this season, Kulikov made the Devils a better team.

In spite of his lack of offensive production, he managed a 53.5% Corsi-For percentage. He played a lot of tough minutes as a physical, shut down defender against tough competition. This season with the Devils showed that he could still be counted upon to play top-four defensive minutes at this point in his career. The Devils are certainly hoping that recently acquired Jonas Siegenthaler can slot into Kulikov’s slot and see the same kind of impact that they saw from him.

Kulikov’s Future

In spite of having played over 700 regular season games, Kulikov only has 24 playoff games under his belt. The only time his team has ever made it past the first round was the 2017-18 Jets, and a back injury limited him to only playing in one game that year. This season he’s been healthy all year and playing well.

Dmitry Kulikov New Jersey Devils
Dmitry Kulikov, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Even though the Devils seemed to really like him, a return tour with them after the offseason seems unlikely. However, he may have done enough this season to get a multi-year deal with a team looking to add his brand of hockey. Maybe the Oilers will like him enough to give him an extension. If Edmonton goes deep in the playoffs and if Kulikov proves to be a big part of it, there’s no question that somebody will call his number in free agency. He’s one of the nice redemption stories of the 2020-21 NHL regular season. Now the Oilers are hoping he can carry that momentum into the playoffs.

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