Everyone figured the Buffalo Sabres would either draft or make a trade for a left-handed defenseman at the NHL Draft, but Tim Murray waited until Saturday to fill that hole, and he managed to move up in the second round in the process.
The Sabres traded defenseman Mark Pysyk as well as the 38th and 89th pick to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and pick 33. With pick 33, they selected center Rasmus Asplund from Sweden.
Kulikov is a physical player who plays strong in his own end, and comes with seven years of NHL experience at just 25 years old. He didn't score much this year, with only one goal and 16 assists this season, but he has good offensive instincts and a big shot from the point. He's become a more reliable player in his own end over the past few seasons, and will play for Team Russia in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
Mark Pysyk was always a fan favorite, thanks to his goofy smile, smooth passes, and good possession numbers. What he failed to bring to the team was offense in terms of point production and any kind of physicality. Pysyk's career high in points came this year, when he scored 11 - not great for a former first round pick. Kulikov, a former first-rounder himself, has had multiple 20 point seasons and a career high of eight goals - basically the Sabres traded good possession numbers and passing for more point production and physicality.
Fans of analytics will be disappointed giving up Pysyk, and Kulikov doesn't come close at all to Pysyk's possession numbers, but Tim Murray never really seemed to have a place for Pysyk, keeping him buried on the third line all season. With Kulikov, the Sabres got a potential second pairing defenseman and with the pick swap the Sabres also moved up to the top of the second round.
Kulikov is under contract for 2016-17 at $4.33 million, and is set to become a UFA at the end of this season. He gives the Sabres some protection in the upcoming expansion draft, should they choose to leave him unprotected.
Whether or not the Sabres planning on keeping him after this year, the Russian blueliner solves the Sabres lopsided defense, as they now have Kulikov, Gorges and McCabe on the left side, while they have Ristolainen, Bogosian, and Franson on the right.