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.

Devils Coaching Staff Continues to Take Shape

Catherine Bogart reported yesterday on the “Inside the Devils Blog” that Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald “spoke to the media ahead of the NHL Draft” and addressed the future of Lindy Ruff’s staff.

To begin, former Devils Interim Head Coach, Alain Nasreddine will be returning as an assistant coach next season.

Fitzgerald told Bogart: “He’s very excited about [returning] as are we. When you can keep a young talent like Alain, who did a good job with our group, tough situation, but he handled it well, learned a lot. [He] grew as a coach, young head coach. I think he’s very excited about the opportunity to work with Lindy Ruff. We’re excited about Alain coming back. He takes a lot of pride in growing our young [defense], he takes a lot of pride in working with the penalty kill, and we’re excited to have him.”

The coaching staff, according to Bogart, currently stands at Ruff, Nasreddine and Mark Recchi. She mentioned that the team is looking for a goaltending coach, leading us to believe that Rollie Melanson will not be returning. Likewise, they are looking for a third “eye in the sky” coach. This, added to Recchi’s hiring, would seem to indicate that the Devils have cut ties with Rick Kowalsky as well.

Bogart quoted Fitzgerald as saying: “We’re going through a goaltending coach search. We have to add a third coach, a ‘eye in the sky’ kind of guy. I think Lindy’s narrowed it down. I think he’s going to be comfortable with a person, I just like to sit down and talk with him and then go from there. There’s no rush especially with the draft and free agency coming up. But I don’t think the decision will take much longer.”

The “eye in the sky” coach would be replacing former assistant coach Mike Grier. Fitzgerald confirmed that Grier is not returning for next season.

Fitzgerald said to Bogart: “He was offered to come back, we would have loved to have him come back. He plans on staying home…he’s got young kids, he wants to be around and be a dad. If something comes up that gives him the opportunity to grow more with more responsibilities than we could have offered him then he’ll consider that. But he was offered a spot to come back.”

So, as it stands, the Devils’ coaching staff will consist of a familiar face along with a lot of overhaul. Once the team hires its goaltending coach and third assistant, we will have word for you here.