31-Year-Old Right Wing – New York Islanders
Nikolay Kulemin Contract Information:
Signed a four-year, $16.75 million contract with the Islanders in July 2014.
Kulemin is off to a slow start this season with no goals and a single assist in six games.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Entering this season as the fourth-highest paid forward on the team, the Islanders are certainly looking to see an increase in scoring from Kulemin, a former 30-goal scorer. His production dipped from a decent first season to a paltry nine goals in 2015-16, which is especially disappointing considering the teamís lack of natural wingers and his $4 million-plus annual salary. On the plus side, the former Maple Leaf owns considerable intangibles including a sound two-way game and tools to be an effective penalty killer, amounting to his projection as a valuable top-nine forward for the Isles. Expect inconsistency from Kulemin in 2016-17, but know he could break out on short notice.
For a player that was expected to serve as little more than a third-line skater, Kulemin was a curious signing by the Islanders before last season, especially at an annual cap hit of more than $4 million. The Islanders were looking for depth on offense, and that is what Kulemin will provide, but itís quite a steep price to pay for someone who wonít play top-six minutes or end up with much of a role -- if any -- on the power play.
Once again the Islanders would seem to have overpaid for a player who has scored a whopping 23 goals over the last three seasons. The Islanders are hoping to recreate the magic that Kulemin had while playing on a line with Mikhail Grabovski while both were in Toronto. They are both expected to play on the second line with the Islanders and possibly be on the second power play unit. While Kulemin shouldn't be forgotten about come draft time, he is not someone to target either.
Once upon a time, Kulemin was an emerging power forward who took the NHL by storm, scoring 30 goals, 57 points and more than 100 hits just three seasons ago. But that remarkable 2010-11 season is looking like a serious outlier as this 27-year-old is settling into the role of 35-point third liner who lays the body. He'll bother the opposition more than fantasy owners ... unless you draft him, that is. Buyer beware.
Which Nikolai Kulemin is going to show up this year? Will the 30-goal man-beast from two seasons ago return or will we simply see a repeat of last year's pathetic seven-goal, 28-point effort? We suspect he'll settle somewhere in between, but your league format will determine the value of a 20-goal, 40-plus point winger who'll deliver Lady Byng-like penalty totals.
Kulemin is a first-line beast -- there's no other way to describe him. And his career trajectory is still pointed up. He protects the puck well, has a nose for the net (to go with an eye for his own zone) and his wrister may someday rip the leather off an opposing goalie's paw. He, Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur made beautiful music together last season and they're back for more this year. And to top it off, he's in a contract year and is looking at a much bigger payoff than he signed last time out. All in all, we like his situation. Don't wait too late on him; he won't be around as long as you think.
Kulemin is poised for a breakout this season -- remember, this is the guy whom Evgeni Malkin raved about playing beside over in the motherland. He's a good skater who's hard to knock off the puck. And he has above-average skill and plays an intelligent game. He's a complementary winger who may someday pot 65-70 points. But he'll be lucky to deliver 50 this season while rolling on the second line with substandard 'mates. He's borderline in single-year leagues but should be a buy-and-hold in keeper formats.
Kulemin pretty much bumbled his way through the first three-quarters or more of last season before coach Ron Wilson dropped him on a line with Grabovski. There he potted five goals and nine points in his last 11 games. Kulemin has a ripping wrist shot, isnít afraid to go to the net and plays a smart, two-way game. Those character traits will only endear him to his coach and that means heíll get plenty of opportunity on the top two lines. Keeper leaguers should have him socked away and this year, he may manage 45-50 points.
Fans in Leafs land think this guy is the second coming Ė heís not. Heís going to be a steady, two-way performer with second-line potential. This year, he could be a top-nine forward in the Big Smoke as the Leafs forge forward on their youth movement.
Second-round pick in 2006 is a solid two-way forward who figures to have a respectable NHL future.