The Sabres' trade for Dmitry Kulikov was a disaster for all involved. Still, his body of work prior to Buffalo warranted interest.
Winnipeg pounced on Kulikov, signing the 26-year-old defenseman for three years at $4.33 million per year, according to Darren Dreger of TSN. The Jets are clearly paying for the potential Kulikov showed during the 2016 playoffs with the Florida Panthers and not for what Kulikov showed last season in Buffalo.
Kulikov was one of three ex-Sabres to find new homes in the first minutes after the free agency bell rang at Noon ET. Backup goaltender Anders Nilsson signed a two-year deal in Vancouver while former Rochester Amerks captain Cal O'Reilly has left his brother's organization and moved on to the Minnesota Wild.
The Sabres acquired Kulikov last summer as part of a deal that sent Mark Pysyk to Florida and gave Buffalo a higher second-round pick After representing Russia at the World Cup of Hockey, Kulikov had a miserable season here. A preseason back injury, suffered when he crashed into a open bench door during a game in KeyBank Center, lingered through most of the campaign and Kulikov's play suffered.
Kulikov had two goals, three assists and a minus-26 rating in 47 games and never fulfilled the promise of the summer, when former General Manager Tim Murray envisioned him as Rasmus Ristolainen's partner on the first defense pair.
Nilsson got a two-year, $5 million deal with the Canucks, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun. He will serve as backup to former Swedish national club teammate Jacob Markstrom, as former Sabres starter Ryan Miller has moved on to Anaheim.
Nilsson went 10-10-4 for the Sabres last season with a 2.67 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. He was particularly strong at home with a 7-1-1 mark in KeyBank Center with a 2.21 GAA and .938 save percentage.
Nilsson's best game was a 46-save performance in November in a 2-1 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, when he went 3 for 3 in the shootout. The winning goal in that shootout was by Cal O'Reilly, who had one assist in 11 games for the Sabres while posting nine goals and 33 assists in Rochester. The Sabres then loaned O'Reilly to the Toronto Marlies and he finished the season in the Calder Cup Playoffs for them.