Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall spent much of the week leading up to the trade deadline rebuilding a struggling bottom-six. However, lost in the shuffle was the acquisition of defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in exchange for Brock McGinn and a third-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.
Kulikov has spent most of this season playing over 20 minutes a night in Anaheim’s top-two, but Seth Rorabaugh of TribLive is reporting that Kulikov will shuffle into a spot in the Penguins lineup that is much more suitable to his skillset.
Kulikov spent much of the Penguins practice on Monday paired with Jan Rutta, supplanting P.O. Joseph on the third pairing. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan praised Kulikov’s size and strength, as well as his ability on the penalty kill.
Kulikov’s acquisition likely means less time on the penalty kill for fellow defenseman Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin is creeping up on playing a career high in shorthanded minutes and has seen his game fall off considerably this season. Although he has been better in recent weeks, easing Dumoulin’s workload could be a positive development for the pending unrestricted free agent, and the Penguins playoff aspirations.
Kulikov doesn’t offer much offensively with just 15 points in 61 games, but is defensively conscience and should bring an awareness that has been lacking for the Penguins throughout this season.