The Florida Panthers continued to shore up their defense on Friday, signing blueliner Dmitry Kulikov to a three-year contract. Although financial terms were not disclosed, the deal is reportedly worth $13 million and will have an average annual value of $4.33 million.
“Dmitry is a young, talented and mobile defenseman with tremendous ability who we are pleased to have signed,” said Panthers general manager Dale Tallon. “He will be counted upon to be an integral part of our defense for the next several seasons.”
The Panthers selected the 23-year-old Russian rearguard in the first round (14th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He made the Panthers the next season. In five seasons with the Panthers, Kulikov has played in 313 games, scoring 24 goals and 99 points. Last season saw Kulikov score eight goals and 19 points in 81 games.
The move is just the latest of several that the Panthers have made to address their blueline. Last Thursday, they re-signed Erik Gudbranson to a two-year contract. On Monday, they locked up Dylan Olsen for two years as well. In addition, they picked defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first overall selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. They also addressed the position via free agency, prying Willie Mitchell away from the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, inking the veteran to a two-year deal.
“Willie is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, who adds leadership and a veteran presence on our blue line,” said Tallon. “He is a high character, hardworking player who will be counted upon to help develop our younger defensemen both on and off the ice.”
The Mitchell signing was just one of a plethora of moves the Panthers made in free agency. They also signed forwards Jussi Jokinen, David Bolland, Shawn Thornton and Derek MacKenzie, as well as goaltender Al Montoya.
With only 66 points, the Panthers finished with the second-worst record in the NHL; winning only 29 games. They won the NHL’s draft lottery to receive the first overall selection.