New Jersey Devils Should Keep Dmitry Kulikov At Trade Deadline

New Jersey Devils defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (70): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (70): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

Trade deadline season is among us and for New Jersey Devils fans it is time to sell once again. Pucks and Pitchforks site expert Nick Villano wrote an awesome article about the biggest trade candidates the team has and the likelihood they are traded. He cites defenseman Dmitiry Kulikov as an 80 percent chance of being moved. While I agree that the chances are high, I would advise the team against moving him unless it is for an offer you cannot refuse.

Let’s go back to the offseason when New Jersey signed the 30-year-old defenseman. It came as a surprise to many, myself included. I was not completely against the signing, with Mirco Mueller not coming back it felt he would fit the mold nicely as a depth defenseman who would play every few games. Luckily, that’s not how it worked out.

Kulikov has turned himself into an every game player and has been extremely vital to the Devils limited success this season. The stats alone don’t even remotely tell the story. Let’s take a journey through the analytics to learn what makes Kulikov such a good defender this year.

There is something called a RAPM chart which you can access on Evolving Hockey if you pay for it via Patreon., (Tweet @DocKelley41 if ) but Kulikov’s numbers are off the chart good, especially for what was expected of him. He is playing some of his best hockey in a few seasons even though it does not translate on the scoresheet.

He is not an offensive defenseman anymore by any sense of the word so seeing his point totals and saying “he is not good” does not tell the whole story. He has been an asset to the defense and to the players he gets paired with, particularly PK Subban. Subban plays so much better with Kulikov than any other D-man on the team. He also prevents a lot of high danger chances against the team as well. Everything on the defensive side of the puck is a positive for him and that has to count for something.

Keeping this brief, I am calling for an extension of Dmitry Kulikov for another season. He has 100 percent earned it and the benefit for the Devils is it will be a cheap contract. The only reason you trade him is if someone overpays for him and I mean seriously overpay, second round pick or more. The team has plenty of other options they can sell off for a normal asking price. Therefore, Kulikov does not need to be moved and with the team’s already lack of defensive depth there is no reason not to bring him back.