The New York Islanders announced a big free agent signing Wednesday, inking physical winger Nikolai Kulemin to a four-year contract. The 27-year-old Russian spent his entire six-year NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring 30 goals in the 2010-11 season. Kulemin was signed on the same day as former-teammate and friend Mikhail Grabovski.
Kulemin is spending his offseason abroad, but NewYorkIslanders.com had the chance to catch up with one of the newest members of the Islanders.
NewYorkIslanders.com: How does it feel to be a New York Islander?
Nikolai Kulemin: It feels pretty good. I am happy to join this organization, as they have a great group of young guys who can improve. I am happy to play for the Islanders and to play with Grabovski again. We have good chemistry together and I am happy to sign a new contract.
NYI: Did you guys actively try to play for the same team?
NK: We talked a lot after last season. We thought it would be great if we could play together somewhere. We didn’t know if that was going to work or not, but I am happy that we get the chance to play together again on the same team and now the plan is to make the playoffs and go far.
NYI: How close are you guys?
NK: We are pretty close friends. We lived together for a while in our first year, but after that, we’ve lived [apart, but] pretty close. Our families are always in touch, even when he played for Washington. We are pretty good friends.
NYI: Tell the fans what kind of player you are? What do you bring to the game?
NK: I like to play physical and protect the puck down low. I like to shoot the puck; score goals. I like to play a fast game, forechecking the defensemen.
NYI: The team is moving to Brooklyn next season, are you excited for the move?
NK: I think it’s going to be great to get a new building. It’s going to be a good experience to play there. I know a lot of Russian people live in the Brooklyn area, so it’ll be a good experience for us and maybe a lot of Russia fans will start going to the games.