Panthers trade Kulikov to Buffalo, make 6 selections on second day of 2016 Draft

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

On the second day of the 2016 NHL Draft, the Panthers made 6 selections in addition to trading the longest-tenured Panther, Dmitry Kulikov, and a 2nd round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Mark Pysyk and 2 picks.

After drafting Henrik Borgstrom 23rd overall last night, the Panthers got things started on Saturday morning by trading away Dmitry Kulikov – who had been with the Panthers ever since he was drafted in 2009 by former GM Rick Dudley – and the 33rd overall pick. In return from the Sabres, they received 24-year old defenseman Mark Pysyk in addition to the 38th and 89th picks in this year’s draft. The logic behind moving Kulikov was mostly based around managing the cap as Pysyk is younger and cheaper while bringing an almost identical style of play.

Kulikov was set to become an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the upcoming season and is already making $4.3 million per year, so it’s not hard to see him asking for an extension worth at least $5 million per year, a deal that wouldn’t really fit into the Panthers’ carefully thought out cap structure. With Pysyk making only $1.125 million for the upcoming season before becoming a restricted free-agent, the Panthers are saving a shade over $3 million by making this trade while getting back a player that is pretty much equal, if not better, than Kulikov.

With Keith Yandle being signed to a long-term deal just a few days ago, the Panthers were able to shore up the left side of the blue-line and that made Kulikov somewhat expendable. The Panthers, as well as many people within the analytics community, have been high on Pysyk for years as he’s a young, puck-moving, right-shot defenseman who, while he doesn’t chip in on the offense on a consistent basis, is very solid in the defensive zone and can play a top-4 role, one that Kulikov was on the borderline of.

Kulikov was somewhat inconsistent in his own end and his hockey sense handicapped his offensive production, although he was certainly someone who could be counted on to play fairly big minutes night in and night out. With him lacking offensive production – something the Panthers and fans have been waiting years for him to bring – it simply wouldn’t have made sense to give him the raise he would’ve wanted while also having to move him over to the right side as a result of signing Yandle.

With Kulikov went the 33rd pick, and the Panthers received the 38th pick in the draft in return which they used to draft Adam Mascherin of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, someone the Panthers are really high on. Mascherin isn’t the biggest player height-wise at 5’9″, but he’s built like a tank at just over 200 pounds.

The 18-year old left winger is an incredibly smart, gritty, hard-working player who possesses an incredible shot which he can use to score from just about anywhere. Just by watching some of his highlights, it’s easy to see why the Panthers liked him so much; he’s pure scorer and has a natural ability to put the puck in the back of the net, something he did 35 times in 65 games last season. In the OHL’s annual polls conducted at the end of the season, the league’s coaches voted Mascherin has having the best shot in the Western Conference in addition to ranking him 3rd in the categories of most improved player and hardest shot. Mascherin also had the 2nd-highest even-strength points per game rate in the OHL amongst all draft-eligible forwards.

He’s probably at least a couple of years away from the NHL, but when he gets there, he has the potential to be a really good scorer for the Panthers. Being that he’s similar in size and possesses similar abilities as Vincent Trocheck and Jayce Hawryluk, we could see Mascherin take a path to the NHL that’s very much like the one they took.

With the 89th pick they received in the Kulikov trade, the Panthers went with Linus Nässén, a Swedish, left-shot defenseman playing with the U20 team of the SHL’s Luleå HF. With the 94th pick, the selected Jonathan Ang of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, a right-handed center who was chosen as the league’s Eastern Conference runner-up for best skater. Riley Stillman, the son of former Panthers defenseman Cory Stillman, was chosen 114th overall. The 6’0″, 181-pound defenseman just finished up his first season in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals where he tallied 21 points in 62 games.

The Panthers rounded out the draft by selecting Maxim Mamin, a 21-year old overage winger who has put up 17 points in 87 KHL games over the past 2 seasons, as well as Ben Finkelstein, a 5’9″ defenseman who has spent the past 3 seasons with Kimball Union Academy where he served as captain and was a teammate of Patrick Shea, the Panthers’ 7th-round pick from last year. Finkelstein is committed to St. Lawrence University for the 2017-18 season.

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