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SABRES ACQUIRE KULIKOV, DRAFT ASPLUND TO KICK OFF DAY 2 OF THE DRAFT

by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres

Tim Murray had been awfully specific as to what sort of player topped his offseason wish list for the Buffalo Sabres: a left-handed defenseman, one who could move the puck up the ice and, in a perfect world, is around the age of 25.

Dmitry Kulikov fits into all of those categories. One night after he told reporters he had been engaging in multiple trade talks for a defenseman, Murray acquired Kulikov and the No. 33 pick on Saturday from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defenseman Mark Pysyk, and picks No. 38 and 89.

The Sabres then used that No. 33 pick to select center Rasmus Asplund from Sweden.

Kulikov, 25, is already entering his eighth NHL season after being selected 14th overall by the Panthers in the 2009 NHL Draft. He played 74 games for Florida last season, scoring 17 points (1+16) while logging an average ice time of 21:02 for a Panthers team that finished atop the Atlantic Division.

Acquiring Kulikov helps balance a defensive corps that was in need of a left-handed shot. As it stands, the Sabres now have Kulikov, Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe on the left and Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian and Cody Franson to play the right.

Asplund, meanwhile, had four goals and 12 points in 46 games for Färjestad BK of the SHL last seaon.

Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com had Asplund at No. 21 in his countdown of the top prospects available in the draft. Here's some of Baker's analysis:

"Slippery and competitive, Asplund’s ability to hound the puck, force turnovers and quickly transition into offense with a smooth playmaking sense makes him an attractive candidate to mature into a quality NHL forward."

Asplund describes himself as a two-way forward who can make his linemates better. He says he modeled his game after Henrik Zetterberg, the Swedish forward who has scored 836 points in 918 games for the Detroit Red Wings.

"I'm so happy right now, I can't describe my feelings right now," Asplund said after being selected. "I'm excited to be a part of this organization to come and compete for a spot on the roster."

The fit is even better when you consider Asplund's familiarity with Alex Nylander, who Buffalo selected with the eighth pick in the first round on Friday. The two played together internationally for Sweden and were linemates at the World Junior Championship.

"I think that's one of the guys I have the best chemistry with," Asplund said. "He's like his brother, huge skills. He makes the difference in every game, he's the difference between winning and losing. He's an amazing player."

Unless Asplund makes the Sabres roster in his first season, he said the plan is to continue developing with another season in Sweden. The fact that Buffalo traded up for him showed how much he was wanted. Now, he's eager to return the favor.

"It's an amazing feeling," he said. "It shows that they really believe in me and really want me to get here."

Stay tuned to Sabres.com for interviews with Asplund and Murray.

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