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 Bring Wedgewood Back into the Fold

As free agency continues, the Devils brought an old face back to the team.

Goaltender Scott Wedgewood has been signed by the Devils “to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 at the NHL and $200,000 at the AHL level” according to the Devils press release on the matter.

The 28-year-old Brampton, Ontario native was traded to the Arizona Coyotes back on October 28, 2017 in exchange for the Coyotes’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 Draft.

Wedgewood then moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization where he played last year with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. At the AHL-level, he was 18-8-2 and had a 3.01 goals against average to go with his .893 save percentage. He was the third goalie in the bubble for Tampa during the playoffs this summer, ultimately winning the Stanley Cup with the Lightning.

Wedgewood, 6-feet, 2-inches tall and 205-pounds, played the majority of his Devils career in the AHL, going 51-36-16 over his time with the Albany/Binghamton Devils. He also netted eight shutouts in his time with Albany/Binghamton. He has a 2.45 GAA and .906 save percentage in 190 lifetime games in the AHL.

At the NHL-level, he played in four games with the Devils in 2015-16, notching two wins with one being a shutout. He also went 5-9-4 with Arizona following his trade there. He finished that season with an .893 save percentage, facing 587 shots and allowing just 63 goals. In total, he has played 24 NHL games, going 7-10-5 with a 3.05 goals against.

The Devils selected Wedgewood 84th overall (third round) in the 2010 NHL Draft out of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. He debuted at the pro level with the Trenton Devils of the ECHL in 2012-13.

Internationally, he played for Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship, winning bronze.