Trade rumor: Leafs eyeing Panthers’ Kulikov

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From the department of NHL trade rumors, here’s Damien Cox of the Toronto Star with a juicy one:

A Panther to keep an eye on: One of the players the Maple Leafs have been eying from afar over the past couple of seasons is defenceman Dmitri Kulikov of the Florida Panthers, and Kulikov might just be more available now than he was because of the wreckage of Florida’s early season play. He’s only 22, but already has four full seasons in the NHL. A couple of problems. He won’t come cheap. He’s in the last year of a contract that comes with a $2.5 million hit and will be looking for a significant pay increase this summer. And he shoots left, with the Leafs more in need of a right-handed shooting blueliner. Like Mike Kostka. Oh, never mind. . .

Not really sure what to make of this one. There’s no question the Panthers have veteran players general manager Dale Tallon is willing to trade, but Kulikov? Sure, his play has fallen off a bit, but as Cox notes, he’s still only 22.

That said, if we were looking for reasons Kulikov might be available, we might wonder about his relationship with the Panthers after last summer’s extended contract negotiation. But that’s mostly because we really like trade rumors and dislike when common sense says they probably won’t happen.