NHL Rumors: Panthers Looking To Extend Third-Pairing D-Man

It likely was more than just the tremendous energy and physicality that he brought to begin Game One of the Florida Panthers' opening round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that type of performance is one reason why the Bolts are so interested in extending third-pairing d-man Dmitry Kulikov. 

According to hockey insider Elliotte Friedman in his 32 Thoughts column, "I think Florida gets Dmitry Kulikov extended. He looks much, much better after getting surgery done last summer on his back."

Indeed, he had one of his best seasons this year in his return to the Panthers, posting, along with 20 points, a career-best plus/minus rating of +15 while playing in a near full-season 76 games along with another career high with 145 hits. 

But his 146th was what set the tone for the Panthers/Lightning series on Sunday when he left the Bolts' Michael Eyssimont helmet-less and practically senseless...

Kulikov signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Panthers for this season, his 15th in the NHL. He was originally drafted by Florida in the first round of the 2009 NHL Draft (14th overall) and Play the first seven years of his career there. He'll be in for a bit of a raise after his solid campaign back in South Beach. 

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