Kulikov, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons and 805 NHL games, brings some much-needed veteran stability to the Anaheim defense corps. In 2021-22, Kulikov had his best season in quite some time, notching more than 20 points for the first time in 10 years and also staying healthy, playing in 80 games. Injuries have been a consistent issue for Kulikov throughout his time in the league.
Averaging 18:12 per game, Kulikov played a bottom-pair but still an important role for the Wild last season. Along with his health, he’s maintained his calling card as a quality defensive defenseman. With the Ducks having some serious question marks at left defense behind Cam Fowler, Kulikov immediately helps fortify a growing team and could provide a solid defensive partner for Jamie Drysdale.
It’s a good trade for the Wild, too, even though they’re losing him for nothing. Minnesota may have managed the salary cap better than most expected considering the massive Zach Parise/Ryan Suter buyout cap hits they face, but they still had a logjam on the blueline with multiple prospects getting closer to NHL readiness. With Calen Addison poised to make the jump to the NHL full-time next season, the Wild simply had one too many NHL defensemen. Considering Alex Goligoski just received an extension and Jonathon Merrill won’t be ready to start the season, Kulikov was the logical trade choice.