The latest addition from the Ducks-to-Penguins trade pipeline is the Russian defenseman.
Dmitry Kulikov is a 12-year NHL veteran born on October 29, 1990, and hailing from Lipetsk, Russia. He's the latest player in a long line of recent trades joining the Penguins from the Anaheim Ducks. That tradition includes Stanley Cup winners Chris Kunitz and Ben Lovejoy, and current Pens Marcus Pettersson and Rickard Rakell.
Kulikov began playing hockey at a young age and quickly gained traction among Russian youth programs. His early career saw him play for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the Russian3 league, before making the leap overseas in 2008 joining the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He won numerous honors in his single season with Drummondville including the QMJHL's Rookie of the Year title and the Emile "Butch" Bouchard trophy as the league's top defenseman. After successfully transitioning to the North American game, he was drafted into the NHL in 2009. He was selected in the first round, 14th overall, by the Florida Panthers, and jumped into the league the very next year.
In his rookie season, Kulikov played in 68 games and recorded 16 points, including three goals and 13 assists. He continued to play for the Panthers for several seasons, becoming a mainstay on their blue line and earning a reputation as a solid two-way defenseman with a niche for assisting goals.
After spending seven seasons with the Panthers, Kulikov was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 2016. He played one season with the Sabres but it was blighted by injury, from there he signed a contract with the Winnipeg Jets in 2017. During his time with the Jets, Kulikov continued to be a reliable d-man, helping the team make the playoffs for three consecutive years.
Post-Winnipeg, Kulikov signed with the New Jersey Devils as a free agent in 2020. With New Jersey failing to reach playoff contention, they flipped him to the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline. After a brief post-season run with the Oilers, Kulikov elected to sign a two-year contract with the Minnesota Wild in the summer of 2021. He had his strongest year in a decade while with Minnesota, scoring an impressive seven goals and 17 assists in 80 games played.
The Wild sold Kulikov off on that high by trading him to the Anaheim Ducks in August 2021. He again had significant offensive production in Anaheim despite the team's overall struggles registering three goals and 12 assists. As a rebuilding team, the Ducks traded veteran Kulikov to the Penguins in March in exchange for Brock McGinn and a 2024 third-round draft pick.
In addition to his NHL career, Kulikov has also represented Russia on the international stage with great success. He was a member of Russia's 2007 gold medal-winning and 2008 silver medal-winning World Junior Championship team. He has also played for Russia's senior men's team in multiple World Championships winning two silver medals, as well as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey where he reached the semi-finals.
Kulikov's playing style is noted as being well-rounded. He can contribute offensively, is a solid skater, and has a niche for shot-blocking. He is also known for his smooth skating and his ability to pitch in on the power play.
Overall, Dmitry Kulikov is an accomplished player who has made his mark in both the NHL and international play. With his strong defensive capabilities and offensive contributions, the veteran is looking to help push the Penguins far into the playoffs to mark his resume with one thing it does not yet have: a Stanley Cup.