NHL Trade Rumors: Are The New York Rangers Eyeing Dmitry Kulikov?

Bruce Bennett

Are the Rangers thinking about making a move?

Sometimes in sports two teams will make a trade for, well, the same player. Kind of. For example, say Team X has a defenseman who was a former first round pick, is young enough that teams are still interested in his potential but simply hasn't lived up to his potential and might need a change of scenery. Now let's say Team Y has a similar player, right down to the position and the potential. Wouldn't it make sense for both teams to make a swap?

That's the situation the New York Rangers might be in with defenseman Michael Del Zotto. While it hasn't been confirmed yet, it's pretty well known the Rangers are talking to teams about dealing for Del Zotto. We've already seen confirmation the Rangers and Ottawa Senators talked about Del Zotto -- but the two teams couldn't come to an agreement.

Since then, we've seen rumors (these aren't confirmed) that the Rangers talked to the Toronto Maple Leafs about defenseman Jake Gardiner. However, the Maple Leafs have given Gardiner a vote of confidence and aren't ready to move him yet.

Now rumors are bubbling that the Florida Panthers are working the phones for defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, another first round pick who hasn't lived up to expectations. Elliotte Friedman talked about this in this week's edition of 30 Thoughts:

The details are hard to pin down, but, at some point last season, the Florida Panthers came pretty close to pulling off a deal that would have sent Dmitry Kulikov to Toronto. One of the teams backed away. But it would come as no surprise to see this conversation rekindled. Kulikov certainly has talent yet is inconsistent. Could he benefit from a change?

There haven't been any official reports linking the Rangers to the Panthers, but it makes sense. The Rangers are obviously takling about moving Del Zotto, and if the Panthers are working the phones about Kulikov (other reports have stated this) then the two seem like a match.

Kulikov has a goal and two assists in 27 games this year. There are some concerns that the KHL might come calling when he turns into a RFA this summer, but sometimes those worries are overstated. Kulikov has a ton of offensive talent (his best NHL season came in 2011 when he had 28 points in 58 games) but it hasn't been there this year. He scored 62 points in 57 QMJHL games before the Panthers took him 17th overall in 2009.

I personally think this is the type of player the Rangers are going to have to go after if they're going to move Del Zotto. They can't sell low on him, but they're obviously not going to get top value for a player who has seen his play cause him to watch more than a few games in the press box this year. Sometimes a move like this is all a player needs to take the next step.

Are the Rangers willing to take a risk?

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