Jason Brough

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 10: Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face-off against the Ottawa Senators at the BB&T Center on March 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Senators 6-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Another change to Florida’s defense, as Panthers trade Kulikov to Sabres


BUFFALO — A few days ago, Panthers GM Tom Rowe said he wasn’t “shopping” defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

Today, Kulikov was traded to Buffalo, along with the 33rd overall draft pick, which the Sabres used to select Swedish forward Rasmus Asplund.

In return, the Sabres sent 24-year-old defenseman Mark Pysyk to Florida, along with the 38th overall pick (which the Panthers used to select Kitchener forward Adam Mascherin) and the 89th overall pick.

Sabres GM Tim Murray had been looking for a young, left-shot defenseman, and Kulikov, 25, is that. But he isn’t particularly cheap. He’s got a $4.3 million cap hit next season, and then he can become an unrestricted free agent.

For the Panthers, the trade further alters a blue line that’s already been significantly altered this offseason. Out went Erik Gudbranson, traded to Vancouver. Brian Campbell is also expected to leave; he can become an unrestricted free agent and hit the market on July 1. And, of course, Keith Yandle was the big acquisition.

Kulikov averaged 21:02 of ice time per game last season. Gudbranson was at 20:07, Campbell led the team at 22:17.

Related: Panthers ink prospect McCoshen to entry-level deal

Flames still have ‘decisions to make’ with their goaltending

Calgary Flames' new General Manager Brad Treliving speaks at a press conference after being introduced in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 28, 2014. Treliving spent the past seven seasons as an assistant under general manager Don Maloney, helping guide the Phoenix Coyotes.  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
1 Comment

BUFFALO — Brad Treliving raved about Brian Elliott, the person. The Flames’ general manager loved his new goalie’s character, how hard he practiced, and he’d heard how popular he was among his St. Louis teammates.

“It was hard to find people to say a bad word about him,” said Treliving.

Elliott’s numbers didn’t hurt either. He went 23-8-6 with a .930 save percentage for the Blues last season. He played well in the postseason too.

But the thing Treliving really liked about the 31-year-old he acquired Friday was the contract — a $2.5 million cap hit in 2016-17, with no commitment beyond that.

“Part of the attraction is the flexibility with the contract,” he said.

The question now is whether Treliving is done. Prior to getting Elliott, the Flames had been linked in trade chatter to Marc-Andre Fleury, Ben Bishop and Sergei Bobrovsky. There are pending free agents, too, like James Reimer.

As of right now, Joni Ortio is Calgary’s No. 2. Would Treliving be comfortable going into next season with the 25-year-old as Elliott’s backup?

“I like Joni, I really do,” he said. “We felt it was important to get an experienced goaltender, and then we’ll see how things round out. Joni, like our team, had some peaks and valleys, and a lot more valleys than peaks, but I thought he finished real strong.”

Ortio went 7-9-5 with a .902 save percentage last season. He spent part of it in the AHL after clearing waivers in November. He’s shown potential, but it would be a risk for Treliving, who just hired a new head coach, to go with such an unproven backup.

“We made our goaltending deeper today, where it all goes we’ll see,” he said. “We’ve got some decisions to make as we go forward.”

In other words, the Flames might not be done.

Related: Calgary adds to talented forward crop, takes Tkachuk at No. 6

Flyers trade down, roll the dice on Russian center Rubtsov

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Ron Hextall, General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, speaks during the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

BUFFALO — The Winnipeg Jets liked towering defenseman Logan Stanley so much they traded up with Philadelphia to draft him with the 18th overall selection.

Just prior to making the pick, the Jets sent the 22nd and 36th overall selections to the Flyers in exchange for the 18th and 79th overall picks.

The Flyers then used the 22nd pick on Russian forward German Rubtsov. And after the trade, Philly will also make the sixth pick of the second round when that gets underway tomorrow. That will give the Flyers three second-round selections (36th, 48th, 52nd), unless they make another trade before then.

Rubtsov is an interesting story. He was the fifth-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, but was part of the Russian squad that was pulled out of the world under-18 championships in April.

From Sportsnet:

The belief is that all, or most, of the team, had been on a meldonium regimen, and there were fears that many of the players would test positive at the tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Rubtsov is expected to be a top 25 pick this month in Buffalo, a talented two-way centre who is highly competitive.

“He’s like a dog on a bone,” said one hockey executive.

Another said he’s an “old school Russian centre who cares about the defensive side of the game.”

As for Stanley, well, he’s a big kid — he stands around 6-foot-7 — but doesn’t provide much in the way of offense. In 64 games this past season in the OHL, he had five goals and 12 assists in a shutdown role for Windsor. He’s considered a bit of a project, so don’t expect to see him in the NHL anytime soon.

Hometown Sabres take Nylander eighth overall


BUFFALO — With the eighth overall pick, the home team at the 2016 NHL Draft selected Swedish forward Alexander Nylander.

The younger brother of Toronto’s William Nylander, Alexander will join a Buffalo squad that drafted center Jack Eichel second overall last year.

The newest Sabre was the OHL’s rookie of the year in 2015-16, piling up 75 points in 57 games for Mississauga.

“Alex made a seamless transition into the OHL, quickly becoming a key member of our hockey club and a valued teammate,” Mississauga general manager and coach James Boyd said, per NHL.com. “His exciting style of play thrilled our fans all season long. Alex is a focused player who is willing to put the work in to get better every day and is extremely deserving of this special award.”

Related: Alexander Nylander’s scouting profile

Draft-day shocker: Blue Jackets take Dubois over Puljujarvi


BUFFALO — Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen wasn’t bluffing. The Blue Jackets have selected Pierre-Luc Dubois with the third overall draft pick.

That means the Blue Jackets did not select Finnish phenom Jesse Puljujarvi, who came into today’s draft as part of the so-called Big Three, along with the first and second overall picks, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, respectively.

Dubois, who turned 18 today, had 99 points in 62 games for QMJHL Cape Breton. He told PHT during the Stanley Cup Final that he thinks he can be a “first-line center in the NHL,” and that may have helped convince Kekalainen — who traded Ryan Johansen to Nashville for Seth Jones during the regular season — to take Dubois over Puljujarvi, a winger.

With the fourth overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers took Puljujarvi.