Bob McKenzie has tweeted that Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov could be headed home to Russia for the duration of the NHL lockout. Kulikov who began his career with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl before coming to North America to play in Canada will return to Russia. It has not yet been reported that Kulikov has signed with the team, but it’s expected very soon, with him seeing action as early as next week.
Lokomotiv had owned Kulikov’s rights when Florida had drafted him in 2009, which may have scared teams from drafting him earlier. He had stated though that he could buy his way out of the contract and wanted to play in the NHL, and had the means to do so. He joined Florida that same year and has been a bright spot on the Panthers defense for the past 3 years and looks to be for years to come as well. The return to Lokomotiv could be an emotional one for Kulikov as the tragic accident that killed the entire team last summer hit him on a personal level. Many friends and former teammates were involved and he easily could have been with them had he not chose to play in the NHL.
I will be providing updates as soon as Kulikov officially signs, as well as when he should be starting his first game in Russia for the first time since leaving. Feel free to follow me on twitter at @RobMc82 for further information on Kulikov as well as future Florida Panthers news involving the lockout and future signings in Europe.