Sabres solidify D-corps, acquire Dmitry Kulikov from Panthers

Matt Larkin
Dmitry Kulikov. (Getty Images)

BUFFALO – The Buffalo Sabres walked away with an impact Russian defenseman early in the NHL draft after all. No, it wasn’t Mikhail Sergachev, as they passed on him for a forward in Alex Nylander during Friday’s first round at No. 8 overall. Instead, GM Tim Murray upgraded his blueline Saturday morning by acquiring veteran Dmitry Kullikov and pick No. 33 (Rasmus Asplund) in Saturday’s draft from the Florida Panthers for D-man Mark Pysyk, picks No. 38 and No. 89.

Some trades are easier to understand than others, and this deal, first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, makes perfect sense for the Sabres. They were very clearly in the market for a veteran top-four blueliner, commonly linked to the Anaheim Ducks’ Cam Fowler. Kulikov, a tenacious left-handed shooter who blocks shots with aplomb, shores up Murray’s blueline. Rasmus Ristolainen remains the cornerstone piece, and Kulkov, Cody Franson, Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges provide depth. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kulikov play on the top pairing with right-shooting Ristolainen.

Just as we’ve seen with the Leafs landing Frederik Andersen and the Coyotes signing Alex Goligoski, the Sabres send a message here they’re ready to start competing as a playoff hopeful. They’ve amassed a nice pile of promising young scorers in Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Nylander. They have their No. 1 stud blueliner in Ristolainen. Why not pick up an impact veteran in Kulikov, still young at 25, and start trying to push for a post-season berth in the weak Atlantic Division?

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Panthers fill need for backup goaltender, send Grimaldi to Avalanche for Berra

Jared Clinton
Reto Berra (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

One of the Florida Panthers’ needs heading into the off-season was a backup goaltender to relieve Roberto Luongo here and there.

Al Montoya had performed admirably over the past two seasons in just that role, but with some options for him to go elsewhere — and maybe even earn a larger share of the net duty — the 31-year-old appeared ready to head elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent. That left the Panthers in the market for some backup help, but they took care of that Thursday by shipping Rocco Grimaldi to the Colorado Avalanche for netminder Retto Berra.

Berra, 29, is locked up at $1.45 million for the upcoming campaign, per CapFriendly, and he’s coming off of a somewhat decent run in the Colorado goal this past season. Read more

Panthers gamble pays off as Yandle signs seven-year, $44.45-million deal

Jared Clinton
Keith Yandle (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

First it was the Arizona Coyotes locking up unrestricted free agent Alex Goligoski after trading for the blueliners rights, and now it’s the Florida Panthers who have become successful in landing one of the best available rearguards before the free agent market even opens.

After trading a sixth-round pick and conditional fourth-round selection to the New York Rangers for Keith Yandle’s rights, the Panthers have locked the defenseman up to a seven-year, $44.45-million contract that will pay the 29-year-old $6.35 million per season, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. It’s a massive payday for Yandle, who was reportedly looking for the max seven-year term on the open market and got that plus a sizeable raise of $1.1 million per season.

According to ESPN’s Craig Custance, Yandle’s new contract also includes a no-movement clause in each of the first six seasons and he’ll have a limited no-trade clause in the final year of the contract. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Latest on Campbell, Stamkos, Malkin, Fleury, Shattenkirk and more

Brian Campbell (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

As the 2016 NHL draft draws near, trade activity is picking up. On Monday, the Anaheim Ducks shipped goaltender Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for two draft picks, the New York Rangers dealt defenseman Keith Yandle‘s rights to the Florida Panthers, while the Nashville Predators dealt the rights of college prospect Jimmy Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Panthers acquisition of Yandle’s rights makes sense if Brian Campbell departs via free agency on July 1. The Miami Herald’s George Richards reports Panthers GM Tom Rowe expects Campbell, 37, to test the market.

It also douses recent trade speculation involving Panthers blueliner Dmitry Kulikov. The Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov claims the Panthers frequently get inquiries about the 24-year-old blueliner but he’s not on the trade block.

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Panthers get Yandle’s rights from Rangers for sixth-round, conditional fourth-round pick

Jared Clinton
Keith Yandle (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

In what has already been a busy day on the trade market, the Florida Panthers are getting in on the fun.

Looking to build their blueline, the Panthers have sent a sixth-round draft pick and conditional fourth-round selection to the New York Rangers for the negotiating rights to veteran blueliner Keith Yandle, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. The conditional selection will only be included in the deal if Yandle, 29, signs with the Panthers, and Florida will have little less than two weeks to make that happen before free agency opens on July 1.

Locking up Yandle would be a big get for the Panthers, who would end up the winners of the sweepstakes for arguably the top free agent rearguard. Yandle scored five goals and 47 points in his first and only full season as a member of the Rangers. Though he played a second-pairing role with the Blueshirts, Yandle would almost certainly become a top-pairing defenseman in Florida, especially if free agent-to-be Brian Campbell doesn’t end up returning to the Cats. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Blue Jackets’ Foligno could be dealt to open cap space in Columbus

Nick Foligno (via Columbus Blue Jackets/YouTube)

The Chicago Blackhawks wasted little time shedding salary following the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Last Thursday, they shipped forwards Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes for two draft picks.

They won’t be the only cap-strapped team trying to free up salary-cap space over the next couple of weeks. With over $66 million invested in their payroll for 2016-17, the Columbus Blue Jackets must create room to re-sign restricted free agents Seth Jones and William Karlsson.

The Jackets attempted to trade left wing Scott Hartnell and defenseman Fedor Tyutin before this season’s trade deadline. It’s expected they’ll peddle both players again.

Hartnell has reportedly agreed to waive his no-movement clause and provided the Jackets with a list of several preferred destinations. If the Jackets fail to find any takers for Tyutin, he could be bought out by month’s end. Read more

Panthers lock up big blueliner Ian McCoshen to entry-level deal

Jared Clinton
Ian McCoshen (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers said their off-season change in logo and jersey design was to coincide with a new era of hockey, one that would be much more successful, and the Panthers have put in place a solid piece that can help them deliver on that promise.

Florida has signed defenseman Ian McCoshen to a three-year, entry-level deal that could see the 20-year-old make the jump into the NHL lineup as soon as the 2016-17 campaign. Though his name may not leap off the page, McCoshen is a highly touted prospect for the Cats who was ranked the 72nd-best prospect not yet a full-time NHLer in THN’s Future Watch 2016 edition. He’s the highest-ranked prospect the Panthers didn’t yet have under contract, but his signing fixes that.

Drafted by the Panthers 31st overall in 2013, McCoshen has spent each of the past three seasons at Boston College, where he has continually played a bigger role and produced more on the offensive side of the puck. This past season, he notched six goals and 21 points — the best offensive season of his career — in 40 games, which was an improvement on the six goals and 16 points the year prior and a big jump from the mere 13 points he registered as a freshman. Read more

10 players who could be buyout candidates this off-season

Bryan Bickell (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nothing says the off-season quite like the threat of buyouts, and we’re inching ever-closer to the NHL’s buyout window opening and several players could see their time with their current teams come to a close.

For some of the candidates, massive contracts are at fault, while other will fall victim to underperforming or simply not fitting within a team’s structure any longer. Unfortunately, some are a combination of all three.

With the salary cap remaining relatively flat according to all reports, several teams are going to be in tough financial situations. Even a rise of $2 million in the salary cap, which is a rough estimate of the maximum amount the upper limit will rise, would still see several teams in tough cap positions. That’s not to say all players on this list will be bought out, but there’s at least a fair chance several from this list will be sent packing by way of a buyout. Read more