Los Angeles Kings: Defensive free agent target, Dmitry Kulikov

(Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

One of the offseason tasks for Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake will be to find help on the left side of the defense. We start with Dmitry Kulikov.

Not that I expect general manager Rob Blake to be particularly active in the free-agent market, but there’s no denying that the Los Angeles Kings need help along the left side of their defense. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be looking at defensemen that could be valuable additions either in free agency or in a trade.

And as previously noted, the Kings will have three members among the blue line subject to free agency in Ben Hutton, Sean Walker, and Joakim Ryan. I expect either Hutton or Walker to return, but we’ll start with Dmitry Kulikov as the first free-agent target.

Kulikov has been in the league for 11 years after being taken 14th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2009 NHL Draft. The 29-year-old has spent the last three seasons with Winnipeg, scoring a combined five goals with 22 assists during that time.

Primarily playing on the second line for the Jets, he’d fit in the same role for Los Angeles. While not a legitimate scoring threat, Kulikov averaged nearly three shot attempts per game and over 20 minutes of on-ice time during the 2019-2020 season.

Capture /

But as a true defenseman in every sense of the word, Kulikov is a physical presence, finishing fifth on the team in hits (104) and second in blocked shots (77) this past season.

He logged a 51.5 Corsi percentage and a 2.0 CorsiRel value, meaning that Winnipeg controlled the puck and forced shots on net while Kulikov was on the ice.

And per Evolving Hockey, he’s projected to fetch a one-year deal worth $1.6M, which would likely be a bridge deal between his next long-term contract. The Kings are expected to see Tobias Bjornfot become an everyday player along the left side, leaving potentially just one open spot, depending on what transpires with Hutton.

Kulikov could present an attractive option for the Kings as a one-year stopgap, potentially generating enough trade interest at the deadline to receive additional draft capital when other prospects prove they are ready for a larger role.

Must Read. Trade for Brock Boeser?. light

And if it simply doesn’t work out, they aren’t strapped down by the years or the dollars. What do we think here?