The Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers hooked up on one of the bigger draft weekend trades on Saturday morning. The Sabres got the 33rd pick and Dmitry Kulikov, while the Panthers acquired Mark Pysyk, the 38th overall pick and the 89th overall pick.
Some were surprised at how little the Panthers obtained for Kulikov’s services, but Florida GM Tom Rowe doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s not an easy decision when you’re trading a guy like ‘Kuli’ away,” Rowe said, per the Miami Herald. “Part of it was cap management going into next year. And then we really wanted to get a right-shot defenseman, and Mark Pysyk was a guy we targeted a long time ago. We watched him quite a bit through the last couple of seasons.”
The trade definitely gives the Panthers some cap relief. Pysyk makes $1.125 million in 2016-17 while Kulikov is set to make $4.33 million. Kulikov is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. With the Panthers having already signed Keith Yandle to a huge extension and Aaron Ekblad likely being next, there simply wasn’t enough money to go around for Kulikov.
“We just felt that we picked up [Keith] Yandle on the left side with a left shot, so we wanted to find a guy who had potential to be a top-four ‘D.’ He might not be a top-four ‘D’ this year, but we think he can be in a couple years. And the fact that he’s a right shot, he’s a very composed player, very smart player, we thought he was a real good fit for the guys we have on the back end.”
As for the Sabres, GM Tim Muray was thrilled with his latest trade acquisition.
“(Kulikov) gives us a chance just to keep getting better and make that playoff push that we talk about now,” Murray said, per the Buffalo News.
“He brings an edge. He’s not going to be a guy that players are sitting on the bench afraid to go play against, but you have to keep your head up when he’s on the ice. He’ll hit you. He’ll submarine you. He’ll make you pay the price if you have your head down.”
Buffalo will likely be committing a whole lot of money to their defense in the near future. Rasmus Ristolainen is an RFA this off-season and he’ll be getting a significant raise going into next season. The Sabres will also want to lock up Kulikov before he’s free to hit the market in July 2017.
Here’s a rundown on what each team did with the draft picks acquired in this trade:
–(33) Buffalo: Rasmus Asplund-C
–(38) Florida: Adam Mascherin-LW
–(89) Florida: Linus Nassen-D