The Florida Panthers traded defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and the No. 33 pick (from the Vancouver Canucks) to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for blueliner Mark Pysyk, the Sabres second-round pick (38 overall) and St Louis’ third-round pick (89 overall).
This move comes following nearly two weeks of denials out of Florida claiming Kulikov wasn’t on the trade block. Kulikov, 25, has a year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $4.33 million. He’s eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency.
The Panthers acquisition and signing of Keith Yandle to a lucrative long-term deal, coupled with rumors they’re on the verge of re-signing 2015 Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad to a big raise, explains the rationale behind this move. With Yandle and Ekblad on the books, management obviously felt they can’t afford to re-sign him.
In Pysyk, they get a much more affordable blueliner ($1.125 million) who’s a restricted free agent in 2017. He possesses good speed, puck-moving skills and a decent shot, but is often injured and lacks physicality.
Kulikov brings much-needed experience and skill to Buffalo’s rebuilding defense corps. He has solid all-around abilities and should bolster the left side of their blueline. He has a good opportunity to establish himself as a valuable part of the Sabres’ future.
The New Jersey Devils trade the No. 77 pick in the 2016 NHL draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winger Beau Bennett.
Bennett is a restricted free agent completing a one-year, $800K contract. Given the Penguins cap-strapped status, they couldn’t afford to re-sign the 24-year-old even if they wanted to.
While Bennett is a speedy winger with good offensive skills, he struggled with injuries and inconsistency in Pittsburgh. Perhaps he’ll get a new lease on life in New Jersey playing for former Penguin GM Ray Shero.
The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired forward Kerby Rychel from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Scott Harrington and a conditional fifth-round pick.
It’s a fresh start for Rychel, who failed to crack the Blue Jackets roster this season. He helped their farm team, the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, win the 2016 Calder Cup. The 21-year-old saw action in only 32 games with the Jackets this season and was frequently the subject of trade speculation.
The Jackets were in need of blueline depth this season. Harrington, who was acquired last summer as part of the Phil Kessel trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, could get an opportunity to establish himself as an NHL defenseman in Columbus. He played only 15 games with the Leafs in 2015-16.
At the completion of the 2016 NHL Draft, the New York Rangers acquired defenseman Nick Holden from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2017.
Holden, 29, appeared in 82 games with the Avalanche in 2015-16. He completed the first season of a three-year, $4.95 million deal. With the Rangers parting way with Dan Boyle via free agency and trading Keith Yandle to the Florida Panther, Holden should provide them with experienced blueline depth.
The move could also free up a little more salary-cap space for the Avalanche to sign restricted free agent defenseman Tyson Barrie.