Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov agreed to terms on a three-year, $12.99 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
"I had some options," Kulikov said of free agency. "When I was making the decision, I was looking at the rosters of the teams that are more closer to contending for the [Stanley Cup] than anything else, and the Winnipeg Jets, I made a decision to join the team because I feel like it's the team that has all the pieces and they're moving in the right direction, and I feel like it's an exciting future for this organization and I'm happy to be a part of it."
Kulikov admitted that two of Winnipeg's top forwards influenced his decision to join the Jets.
"I know [Jets center Mark Scheifele] from a couple of summers ago when I trained with him in Canada, and I skated with [Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler] this summer a couple of times," he said. "They played a big role in my decision. They pretty much sold me on Winnipeg and talking how good the team is and how good the guys are in the locker room."
Kulikov, 26, had two goals and three assists in 47 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season, missing time because of various injuries.
"Hopefully, I can take my spot as a steady defenseman playing against other teams' top lines," Kulikov said. "I feel like talking to the coaches it will be a really good fit and just playing with great player, I feel like it's going to be a huge opportunity for me and a huge chance to help out a great team."
Kulikov was selected by the Florida Panthers in the first round (No. 14) of the 2009 NHL Draft and spent seven seasons with them before being traded to Buffalo on June 25, 2016. He has 143 points (30 goals, 113 assists) in 507 regular-season games with the Panthers and Sabres, and has five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games.