After acquiring the left-handed Dmitry Kulikov over the weekend, the 25-year-old defenseman had his press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Kulikov didn’t expect to be traded, but when he heard the news, he understood.
“Initially, I was kind of happy that Florida acquired another defenseman to help us on the power play. When the draft came, I had some doubts. I thought that something might go down, but I was comfortable in Florida. It’s part of the business and I’m excited for the future.” – Kulikov
The Panthers said it was because of cap issues, but with just one more year remaining on his contract, Kulikov never even had the chance to talk about it with the team.
Kulikov was asked about the type of role he will play in Buffalo and is confident he can be a top defender.
“I just want to help out in anyway possible. Whatever role they have for me. They wanted to get me. I haven’t spoken to Bylsma or Murray yet, but any role that they’re going to give me. Top four is a very prestigious honor and I’m happy to be that guy and take on that responsibility. The last few years I’ve improved a lot. I felt like I really picked up my game at the end of this season. I can be a shut down guy.” – Kulikov
Kulikov described his playoff performance with the Panthers and what he learned in the series against the Islanders.
“I felt like I had a strong playoff and one of the top in Florida. I played a shutdown role against the Islanders top line. I was happy with the responsibility and that they trusted me as a top pair defenseman. What I learned about my game is that I have another level of compete in me to help my team take another step into the second round.” – Kulikov
Kulikov said he wasn’t disappointed to go from a playoff team to one that hasn’t made it in five years.
“Every year in the NHL you start over. It’s an opportunity. Looking at Buffalo and playing against them, they have a lot of skill. If I can help out the defensive core anyway I can and get the puck up to the forwards, we’re going to have a very successful year.” – Kulikov
Kulikov has been improving his game, but says there is still room to grow.
“I was drafted as a two-way defenseman, but I haven’t been as productive as I wanted to be in the NHL. I want to grow in that part of the game and be more offensive. I’m happy for a fresh start and this opportunity in Buffalo.” – Kulikov