Kulikov still in Russia, Panthers say they’re not close to a deal

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The Florida Panthers and Dmitry Kulikov are still far apart on a contract extension.

That’s the word out of Sunrise on Tuesday as assistant GM Mike Santos told the Sun Sentinel the club isn’t close to a deal with the RFA defenseman, adding he hasn’t talked to Kulikov’s agent in 48 hours.

Kulikov, 22, is currently plying his trade with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL (though he wasn’t in the lineup for today’s game vs. Severstal.) The Panthers tendered Kulikov a qualifying offer in late June but weren’t able to successfully negotiate a deal prior to the CBA expiring on Sept. 15.

On Sept. 25, Kulikov inked with Yaroslavl.

The 14th overall pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Kulikov is a vital part of the Panthers’ blueline. He had four goals and 28 points in 58 games with Florida in 2011-12, averaging 21:51 minutes per contest and a healthy amount of ice time with the man advantage.

Florida lost defenseman Jason Garrison to Vancouver in free agency and will start the season without the services of Erik Gudbranson, who will miss the first three games with a shoulder injury.

It should be noted that, because the Panthers tendered him a qualifying offer, Kulikov is still a restricted free agent. That means teams can submit an offer sheet to him at any time.