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Defenseman Kulikov signs with Panthers

Friday, 07.18.2014 / 10:52 PM / NHL Free Agency 2014

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Defenseman Kulikov signs with Panthers
The Florida Panthers have signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a three-year contract

Restricted free agent defenseman Dmitry Kulikov signed a three-year contract with the Florida Panthers on Friday. Financial terms were not released, but TSN reported the total value to be $13 million.

"He has so much ability and this is a fair contract, it's what what guys around the League are getting paid," general manager Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald. "Now it's time for him to make a statement and be a leader on our team. He has all the ability in the world. He just has to channel it in the right direction.

"We're happy to have him in the fold. He's a great kid, still a young guy. He has tremendous ability. It's hard to find those guys."

Kulikov, 23, had eight goals and 19 points in 81 games last season, his fifth in the NHL. The 14th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Kulikov has 24 goals and 99 points in 313 games.

"When you're not winning you try things you're not able to do," Tallon told the Sun Sentinel. "Obviously, it all comes down to team and what kind of team you're playing with and who his partners are.

"We didn't have a very good year and most of our players didn't have very good years, so we're going to have different coaching and we're going to focus on making him a better player and simplifying his game, making him a more consistent player."

Signing Kulikov is the latest move by the Panthers to secure their blue line. Florida announced a two-year contract for defenseman Erik Gudbranson, 22, last Thursday, which was followed four days later by a two-year contract for 23-year-old defenseman Dylan Olsen.

The Panthers selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad first in the 2014 NHL Draft.

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