Nikolay Kulemin’s season was tragically cut short, and the after-effects were felt throughout the entirety of the 2017-18 season.
Nikolay Kulemin wasn’t the fanciest player on the ice, or the most skilled, but he’ll be remembered fondly by some for his work ethic and hustle day in and day out.
Nikolay Kulemin entered the 2017-18 season in the final year of a four-year, $4.18 million deal that both he and Mikhail Grabovski inked on July 2, 2014. Kulemin knew if he was to earn another deal in the NHL, this was the year to make his case for another contract whether it was with the Islanders or another one of the 30 teams.
In the 13 games he played with the Islanders this season, Kulemin scored a goal and two assists in 13 games. His lone goal came against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
Unfortunately for Kuli, his 2017-18 campaign was cut short after a nasty hit by Eric Gryba in a 2-1 OT loss to the Edmonton Oilers. As a result, Nov. 7 was the last game he played for the Islanders, and there’s a good chance it was his last game in the NHL.
Just heard that Nikolay Kulemin is indeed headed back home to play for Magnitogorsk in the KHL. 248 games over four seasons with the #Isles, 10-year NHL career. #Isles lost a lot of depth and PK ability when he went down for the year with a shoulder injury in November.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 12, 2018
For some, the departure of Kulemin is a welcome one. While Kulemin didn’t control the figure that was given to him salary-wise, the forward’s $4.18 million collected annually draws the ire of some who note that he scored 45 points in his last two full seasons.
Kulemin’s contract looks bad when you compare the numbers to players like John Tavares who scored 37 goals and 84 points on the last year of his $5.5 million bargain deal. Heck, Anders Lee made less as a 40-goal scorer as he enters the last of a four-year, $15 million contract ($3.75 AAV).
Kulemin’s annual value painted him in a negative light, but the winger’s specialty was never in scoring.
What Kulemin lacked on the scoresheet he more than made up for in his defensive ability. The forward was tasked with reinforcing the Islanders penalty kill that was at 83.7 percent during Kulemin’s 13 games in the lineup.
Obviously, the rash of injuries to Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk didn’t help the Islanders in the slightest. It’s worth noting the PK numbers dropped significantly when Kulemin went down—the PK finished at a league-worst 73.2 percent.
With the news made official that Kulemin is KHL-bound, the Islanders bid farewell to arguably the most underrated player on their roster and have a big gap to fill defensively. Despite his salary being less-than-ideal, Kulemin’s presence was and will be sorely missed by the Islanders if they don’t find a suitable replacement.