The Buffalo Sabres acquired defenseman, Dmitry Kulikov from the Florida Panthers on Saturday at day two of the 2016 National Hockey League Draft.
During the second day of the draft, the Panthers sent Kulikov, along with their 33rd pick to Buffalo in exchange for defenseman, Mark Pysyk and the 38th and 89th picks in the draft.
The Sabres used the 33rd pick in the draft, to select Swedish center Rasmus Asplund. The Panthers then took, from the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, left winger, Adam Mascherin with the 38th selection and at the 89th spot, the took Swedish defenseman Linus Nassen.
The 25-year old Kulikov was the Cats first round pick in the 2009 entry draft. He spent seven seasons with the Panthers, putting up 28 goals and 138 points for Florida.
This past season, Kulikov had one goal and 16 assists in 74 games.
Sabres general manager, Tim Murray said, “We certainly like Kulikov as a player. We did a lot of video scouting on him at the end of the year on him. We watched their six playoffs games, other than knowing him well and watching him since he was in Drummonville and our pro scouting staff since he has been in the National Hockey League. We like him as a player. We have a need for a left-shot defenseman.”
He added, “He had an outstanding playoff for them; I thought he was their best defenseman in the six games they played against the [New York] Islanders.”
During their opening round playoff series with the Islanders, Kulikov scored a goal and three assists.
Ever since, Murray was hired by the Sabres, in January of 2014, he had been looking for a top-four, left handed defenseman.
Murray said, “I do not know if he is a number one, or 1-A defenseman, I mean Rasmus Ristolainen is our number one, so he would be two. We are going to find out, but he is certainly a strong top-four defenseman. I think he just makes us better. He is a guy that we have liked. I remember talking to Dale Tallon about him, certainly when I first got here, and we talked about it when I was with the Ottawa Senators.”
He added, “He is a good player. I like guys that are honest, I like guys that are hard to play against, I certainly like guys that can make a tape-to-tape pass, and with our forwards, I think if he can make good tape-to-tape passes, good things are going to happen in transition with the skill and speed we already have here, so he is just a great fit.”
Pysyk, 24, had five goals and 26 points with the Sabres in four seasons.
Panthers general manager, Tom Rowe said, “You know, it is not an easy decision when trading a guy like Kulikov away. Part of it was salary cap management, going into next year, and then we really wanted to get a right-shot defenseman, and Mark Pysyk was a guy was a guy we had targeted a long time ago and watched him quite a bit through the last couple of seasons. We just felt when we picked up Keith Yandle on the left side, with a left shot, we wanted to find a guy that had the potential to be a top four defense.”
Rowe added, “He might not be not in the top four this year, but we think he can be there in a couple of years. The fact that he is a right shot, he is a very composed player, a very smart player, we thought it was a very good fit for the guys we have on the back end.”
The key part of the deal on Saturday, was the ability for the Sabres to swap their pick with the Panthers as well as move up to select Asplund. Murray identified Asplund, as a player with first round talent, that had slipped into the second round.
Murray said, “Being able to do the flop of seconds certainly made our Swedish scout happy and our head scout happy. Happy scouts, happy life.”
Asplund and Sabres first round selection, Alexander Nylander, were teammates on the Swedish team during the 2016 World Junior Championship.
Asplund said, “We played World Juniors on the same line and had really great chemistry there. To have the opportunity to still play and play together for a couple of years now will be awesome. I am really happy to have Alex in this organization too and I think he is too. I am just so happy now.”