Devils Ink Kulikov; Round Out Coaching Staff

The Devils made two moves over the last two days, helping to shore up the defense and complete Lindy Ruff’s coaching staff.

Firstly, yesterday they signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a one-year contract worth $1,150,000. Kulikov was a free agent last with the Winnipeg Jets.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Tom Fitzgerald, who made the announcement, said: “Kulikov is an experienced, physical left-shot defenseman who skates well. His ability to play both the right and left side brings value to our defense corps.”

The 29-year-old blueliner from Lipetsk, Russia had a pair of goals and eight assists (10 points) last year for Winnipeg in 51 games. He also had two assists in the Jets’ Stanley Cup Qualifier series against the Calgary Flames in which he played four games.

But scoring is not what sets him apart. He averaged just over 20 minutes of ice time (20:01 according to the press release put out on the matter), and, as Fitzgerald noted, is physical and versatile. His time on ice average was “third amongst Winnipeg defensemen” in 2019-20.

Kulikov is well-traveled. He was drafted 14th overall in the first round of the 2009 Draft by the Florida Panthers. He has since played with Buffalo and the Jets. His best season was 2011-12 when he had career highs in assists with 24 and points with 28 in 56 games played for the Panthers.

He has a career total of 35 goals, 135 assists totaling 170 points over eleven seasons in the NHL. He also has a career average of 19:57 of TOI – showing his reliability and versatility. In the playoffs, he has participated in 24 games with one goal and six assists (seven points) to go with 18 penalty minutes.

He played a season for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec League prior to moving to the NHL. The press release notes that in his only season in Drummondville, the Voltigeurs went to the President Cup Final, the league championship series. He played 57 games in the “Q” notching 12 goals and 50 assists (62 points) and was named the 2008 QMJHL Defenseman of the Year, Rookie of the Year and got First Team All-Star honors.

Internationally, he has skated for Russia at the 2007 World Junior Championship, winning gold that year and the 2008 World Juniors where he won a silver. He was also a part of the Russian team that won bronze at the 2009 World Juniors. He also won silver at the 2010 and 2015 World Championships.

Not a bad under-the-radar signing for the Devils as he gives them a little more size (Kulikov is 6-feet, 1-inch and 205-pounds) and physicality on the backend.

In other news, the Devils completed Lindy Ruff’s coaching staff by hiring Chris Taylor as an assistant and Dave Rogalski as the goalie coach today. Taylor and Rogalski will join Alain Nasreddine and Mark Recchi on the Devils coaching staff.

Taylor, 48-years-old and a native of Stratford, Ontario, has been a coach at the American Hockey League-level since 2011. He was first named as a Development Coach for the Rochester Americans in 2011-12. He served as an assistant with the Americans from 2012 to 2016. He spent 2016-17 as an assistant with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before returning to the Buffalo Sabres’ organization the following season to serve as Rochester’s head coach.

As the coach of the Amerks, Taylor made the Calder Cup Playoffs in two of his three seasons and, as the press release notes, “was on pace in this third [season] with the Americans.” He was promoted during the 2019-20 season to be an interim assistant coach with the Sabres for two months.

He finished his AHL head coaching time with a record of 116-65-33 in 214 games and was named coach of the North Division a the AHL All-Start Classic in Ontario, California this past January. Over his entire time in Rochester (as an assistant and head coach), the Americans were 239-204-57 gaining 571 points over 518 games. Likewise, when he was with the Baby Pens, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had a record of 43-27-6, recording 92 points. They lost in the Conference Semi-Finals that season.

Another new face will be Rogalski, a 39-year-old native of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Rogalski was the Goaltender Development Coach for the St. Louis Blues from 2017-2020, helping the Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019 through his work with then-rookie goalie Jordan Binnington.

In his role with the Blues, Rogalski “was responsible for the training, film breakdown, and skill development of the Blues’ young goaltenders and scouting goaltenders for the NHL Draft. He also crafted video packages and reports on opposing goaltenders and would visit goaltenders throughout the St. Louis system.”

Rogalski started coaching in 2010 for St. Cloud State University where he served as their goalie coach. He spent the next six years in the NCAA before moving to the United States Hockey League where he was named Goaltending Consultant for the Sioux Falls Stampede in 2016.

The press release put out by the Devils notes that Rogalski was a goalie for NCAA Division III St. Mary’s University from 2001 to 2003. He appeared in 16 games for the Cardinals, finishing his college career with a 3.78 goals against average and an .880 save percentage.

Merkley Re-Signs

The Devils put out a press release this morning saying that Nick Merkley has re-signed with the club. His contract is a two-way deal, worth $874,125 at the NHL-level and $70,000 at the AHL-level.

According to the press release and Devils Executive Vice President/General Manager Tom Fitzgerald, Merkley will rejoin the team “prior to the start of 2020-21 training camp.” He is currently playing for Assat in Liiga. He currently has two goals and two assists (four points) over seven games in the Finnish league.

Merkley stands 5-feet, 10-inches and is 195-pounds. He was acquired by the Devils in the trade that sent Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes. The right-shooting forward “made his Devils debut on February 14, 2020 against Carolina where he recorded his first career NHL point with an assist.” He scored one goal in four more games with the Devils last season.

In the American Hockey League, with the Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona’s affiliate) and Binghamton, he netted a total of 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points over 26 games with Tucson and 28 with the B-Devils. In the AHL all-time, he has 39 goals, 69 assists totaling 108 points over 137 games. He was a 2017-18 AHL All-Star according to the press release.

The 23-year-old Calgary-native was selected 30th overall in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Coyotes. Prior to that, he was a teammate of Devils prospect Nolan Foote and Damon Severson with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. From 2012 to 2017, he had 85 goals, 174 assists, totaling 259 points, leading the Rockets in scoring in 2014-15 according to the presser. He had 20 goals and 70 assists for 90 points that season over 72 games.