Devils sign Dmitry Kulikov, re-sign Nicholas Merkley, Alexander Holtz off to a good start

The Devils signed Dmitry Kulikov to a one-year deal worth $1.15 million. A veteran defenseman of 11 years, Kulikov will turn 30 on Oct. 29.

He’s a good skating, left shooting D who can log around 20 minutes in a top four role. With the off-season addition of Ryan Murray along with incumbents Will Butcher, Damon Severson and P.K. Subban, Kulikov can fill a role in the top six.

Originally a Panthers 2009 first round pick, the Russian blueliner has spent time with three NHL teams including the Sabres and most recently the Jets. Once a player who could contribute offensively, Kulikov has taken on a different role the past few years. He spent the past three seasons in Winnipeg where he totaled 27 points (5-22-27) and 101 penalty minutes over 170 games.

He helped the Jets make the playoffs three consecutive years. In 51 contests during the regular season, Kulikov tallied two goals and eight assists for 10 points with 32 penalty minutes and a minus-four rating. All 10 points came at even strength. He averaged 20:01 per game with 77 blocks and 104 hits.

In the postseason, he had two assists in four games. Winnipeg was eliminated by Calgary in the Play In Round.

Overall, it’s a low risk move by Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald. Think of it as insurance for former first round pick Ty Smith. At the moment, he’d have to play his way into the lineup. Here is the projected Devils defense:





In another move, the Devils re-signed forward Nicholas Merkeley to a one-year contract for $874,125. It’s a two-way deal. The 23-year old left shooting right wing was acquired by the team from the Coyotes as part of the Taylor Hall trade that netted defense prospect Kevin Bahl and 2020 conditional first round pick Dawson Mercer. A trade that looks like one of Fitzgerald’s smartest with Hall leaving Arizona for Buffalo. Especially if both Bahl and Mercer pan out.

Merkley posted a goal and helper in four games for New Jersey. The 23-year old from Calgary is a former Coyotes 2015 first round pick.

The Devils have quietly had a good off-season thanks to additions like Murray, Kulikov, former Blackhawks Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford and acquiring ex-Leaf Andreas Johnsson. They still have 13.93 million in projected cap space with just restricted free agent Jesper Bratt to re-sign.

New Jersey 2020 first round pick Alexander Holtz is off to a good start with Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Hockey League. The seventh overall pick has four goals and two assists in eight games. The 18-year old Swedish right wing looks like a sniper.

Holtz looks like one of the best finishers out of a strong 2020 Draft Class. He turns 19 next January 23. Devils fans should be excited about the future. Holtz and Mercer will be a big part of it along with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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