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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Kulikov’s First Shot at Stanley Cup Comes with the Florida Panthers



Dmitry Kulikov, pictured here in 2016 against Columbus, was a first-round draft pick of the Panthers in 2009. After being traded to Buffalo in 2016, he’s back with the Panthers and ready to win the Stanley Cup for the first time. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

FORT LAUDERDALE — When the Florida Panthers traded Dmitry Kulikov to Buffalo in 2016, the defenseman said he was “excited to change the scenery a little bit … after being here so many years.’’

As time went on, Kulikov wanted to come back to the team which drafted him in the first round back in 2009, but nothing ever worked out.

Last summer, general manager Bill Zito called with an offer.

Kulikov was finally coming back.

And now, for the first time in his career, he is getting the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup.

If you would have told him 10 years ago his first shot at the Cup would be with the Panthers, he would not have believed you.

He believes it now.

“This has been great,’’ Kulikov said. “The whole playoff experience, the whole season with this team has been fantastic. It has been great to be around this group every day. We encourage each other and that has been great. Going through all the rounds, we certainly learned some things like how to approach a game after a loss, how to treat it after a win. It has been good.’’

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Kulikov never really left South Florida following the trade — although he spent a lot of time away from here over the years.

After playing through some back injuries in Buffalo and Winnipeg, his career went from one city to another.

By the time he came back to the Panthers, he had played for seven different teams — including the Edmonton Oilers after being a trade deadline acquisition from New Jersey in 2021.

With the Panthers needed help on the blueline with Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour hurt to start the season, Zito targeted a number of veteran defensemen who could slot right in and help Florida weather the storm.

It was not known how Kulikov would fit in once those two came back, but Paul Maurice — who had Kulikov in Winnipeg — loved his style of play not only on the third pairing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but on the penalty kill as well.

Kulikov ended up playing 76 games with the Panthers.

He can be a free agent in a couple of weeks, but he might just be back.

“To be honest, I never wanted to leave in the first place,” Kulikov told Florida Hockey Now before the season started.

“I always wanted to come back here, it just did not work out. When the opportunity opened up this summer, I did not want to go anywhere else. I am happy. I am really happy.”

For More FHN Coverage of the Florida Panthers:

Panthers Lead Best of 7 Series 3-1
  • When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Series Schedule, All Games 8 p.m. on ABC — Game 1: @Florida 3, Edmonton 0; Game 2: @Florida 4, Edmonton 1; Game 3: Florida 4, @Edmonton 3; Game 4: @Edmonton 8, Florida 1; Game 5: Edmonton at Florida, Tuesday; Game 6*: Florida at Edmonton, Friday; Game 7*:Edmonton at Florida, Monday June 24. (*) – If Necessary
  • How They Got Here — Florida: d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2, New York Rangers 4-2; Edmonton: d. Los Angeles 4-1, Vancouver 4-3, Dallas 4-2.
  • This Season (Florida Won 2-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Oilers 3 (Nov. 20). At Edmonton: Panthers 5, Oilers 2 (Dec. 17).
  • Last Season: Edmonton Won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Oilers lead 23-16-0, 3 ties
  • Postseason History: First Meeting

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