Kulikov, 30, continues to secure healthy contracts despite a sharp offensive decline and a lack of any playoff success. The 6’1″ left-handed defenseman has registered just 36 points–four this year–in his last 265 NHL games. He brings some physicality and decent defensive awareness, but is really just a depth option at this point. Over his 12-year career, which includes 725 regular season games, Kulikov has only 27 postseason appearances and the only playoffs where his team even got out of the first round was when he played just a single game.
There are plenty of examples throughout NHL history of players that had no postseason success until they did, but this is a bit of an odd signing for a team that already has so much money tied up on defense. The Wild are also paying Alex Goligoski $5MM for the 2021-22 season, meaning the top-four combine for more than $24.5MM. The team has $20MM in cap space left, but a huge chunk of that (likely more than half) will be given out to Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala. If the team wants to make any other significant additions, the room is dwindling.
Still, Kulikov basically replaces the outgoing Carson Soucy, who was set to earn $2.75MM but was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. The veteran defenseman will not likely be asked to log anywhere close to 20 minutes a night but instead provides some depth in case of an injury in the top-four.