Photo Credit: © Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Jets New Face – Dmitri Kulikov

The Winnipeg Jets signed Dmitri Kulikov and this is a deal that has the potential to be great in the next three years or a giant bust.

As someone that had the pleasure of watching Kulikov play the past year, there are some concerns with this signing going forward. Last year he suffered a freak back injury after getting checked into the door as it was being opened. The injury plagued him throughout the season, possibly contributing to his numbers being lower. He also suffered through Dan Bylsma’s system, which was probably worse than the back injury.

Normally, you’d look at one season and think that it was an anomaly and say that he could bounce back and this contract is worth it. Looking back beyond that and over the last few years, that might not be the case with Kulikov.

If we look at basic stats (raw points), for the 4.3 million per year we’re spending, we’re going to be lucky if we get 15 points out of him. He has only hit the 20 point mark in his career 3 times, though it was early on. Going deeper into the stats, he doesn’t exactly drive anything else either. If you compare him to Trouba, it’s not a good look historically.

Kulikov stats via Pucklytics

Trouba stats via Pucklytics

So, one could argue that he’s good defensively at least right? He’s ok at best. He’s not worth 4.3 million in my opinion, but you can be the judge. Again, this is against Trouba as a comparison.


Now, you can see that his last season is a bit of an outlier, but it’s not that much of one.

Kulikov stats via Pucklytics

Trouba stats via Pucklytics

He could easily bounce back but there’s not much bounce back when you’re middle of the pack to begin with.

The biggest thing to take into consideration is the long term effect that back injuries can play. We’ve seen this across the league with Cody Hodgson and Nathan Horton where a back injury has caused both of them to retire at a young age. I’m not saying that Kulikovs is bad enough, but it can be a nagging type of injury and one that we should be aware of as a fan. I think a 1 year show me deal was probably the better choice of a player like him instead of 3 years.

Let’s just hope this works out for the best, if just for the sake of the cap and not looking foolish.

*Note: Updated to reflect point totals from early in his career*

    • LoganStanley'sCup

      I think Stanley plays junior next year and then needs at least 2, maybe 3 seasons in the AHL. He was always going to be a project and is years away from contributing at the NHL level (if ever).

  • s8cc

    That’s a lot of cash for a “stop gap” Top 6 d-man. Either Chevy/his staff see potential, or that’s just what it costs to get someone other than Brian Strait to come to Winnipeg.

    • WPGChief

      IMO, this is more than a stop gap. This is likely an Enstrom replacement past this year (unless Enstrom signs his supposed 1-year extension) until better defencemen develop in the Jets’ prospect pool (or when better UFA D are available in these next couple of offseasons in comparison to this one (honestly it was pretty trash)). You can probably guess that there were a couple of teams going after Kulikov for lesser than $4.3m, but only WPG was willing to give him the exact same contract he got in Florida, AND a modified no trade clause.

      It just sucks to theorize that the $4.3m was probably WPG’s upper limit to signing Kulikov, and that’s exactly what they signed him for. Kulikov has a good agent.

  • Travis

    Here is what I hope and expect will happen with Kulikov this coming season.

    Expect: Kulikov starts the season on the bottom pairing, and his play is mediocre. Better than Stuart/Strait/Chiarot/Melchiori, but not by a lot. He gets injured fairly early into the season, and misses at least 20 games. Someone from the Moose is called up to replace him.

    Hope: Niku (or Poolman, or Stanley, though the latter is less likely) played well enough at camp and for the Moose to earn the call up. While not exceptional, his play is strong enough to earn a permanent spot on the roster, and he improves throughout the year.

    • FishWhiskey

      I would not be the least surprised to see Stanley play out his last year of Junior eligibility. He is still a long way from excelling at that level against kids and throwing him in the AHL against men of far greater skill and maturity could hurt him badly. He just turned 19 and while he may be big he appears to need more time to learn how to use his size as I have seen him badly manhandled by kids half his size.

  • Brock Landers

    If only UFAs were willing to take less money to sign with a team who hasn’t won a playoff game ever and has some of the worst winter weather in North America. The Jets are always going to be paying a partial premium for a UFA unless it’s a MB player who’s home-sick.

  • Hank_Mardukas

    I think it’s important to point out that Kulikov over the past five years (excl. his write-off season in BUF) averaged well over 21minutes a night on a usually terrible Florida team, placing him 3rd on the depth chart ahead of the likes of Gudbranson and Petrovic.

    Winnipeg could “afford” to pay him like a 3D but we don’t need to play him like one. If he played 18minutes a night, with easier zone starts and against lesser competition we could see him really improve his numbers. Considering Chariot only chipped in an average of 15minutes and Stuart 12minutes last year, this is an obvious upgrade for a number 6D but also insurance that if/when an injury in the top4 occurs he can fill in and an easy way to relieve Buff from playing 25+ minutes a night.

    Also worth noting that Florida had 4 different coaches/systems in his first 5 seasons. Being the lone Russian speaking player trying to jump into the NHL as a 19 year old and then forced to learn how to play a new system every 100 games would have been tough and could help to explain in part his lacklustre numbers his last few years in Florida.

  • FishWhiskey

    I hate to say it but the best scenario for signing Kulikov is that he is an overpayed but dependable LH bottom to second pairing D-man who will eat about $2 mil of cap space above his real value which will be desperately needed in the next couple of years to keep our young guns. If his back is shot then he will be a $4 million dollar, un-tradable, boat anchor. Chevy could almost certainly have taken Patrick Wiercioch who has similar to better metrics and age as Kulikov and just signed with the Canucks for $800K. Am I missing something here or does this Kulikov signing look like a mistake waiting to happen? Three years at 12 mil. Yikes!

    • Hank_Mardukas

      Cap space is not even an issue – they had room to spend this year and grabbed the best player available to shore up a defence that has great talent but no depth. TNSE have assembled a draft and develop team that will continue to bring entry level contracts in at forward whose production per $mil will be better than most teams in the league. No matter how you slice it they’ve improved our team today without mortgaging the future. Let’s just be happy they’ve spent some money to support a team that’s ready to take the next step in 17/18.