The Pens Reportedly Want Kulemin, and That’s a Good Thing

Via the Score:

“The Pittsburgh Penguins have their sights set on a winger that can play with Evgeni Malkin. That winger is unrestricted free-agent Nikolai Kulemin.

Yohe reports Kulemin and Malkin are best friends and the move seems imminent.”

And, from Yohe, via the Trib:

“One of the players on the Penguins’ radar is forward Nikolai Kulemin. The 27-year-old winger is an unrestricted free agent and Malkin’s best friend. The two have been linemates in international competitions and with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Malkin lost his preferred linemate Friday when the Penguins traded right winger James Neal to Nashville. Hours after the trade, Rutherford said he would try to “satisfy” Malkin through free agency.

Kulemin is a former 30-goal scorer whose performance has been sporadic during his six-year career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Penguins have said they are interested in players who possess strong advanced stats numbers, specifically those pertaining to puck possession. Kulemin fits that description. He also desires a top-six role.”

A few things about Kulemin. First of all, ignore his production from the last two years or so. The Leafs wasted him and Carlyle didn’t play him in the situations he should be in. Via the National Post:

“Kulemin, though, has mostly been stuck in a defensive role ever since Carlyle arrived in Toronto. His shot attempts seem to reflect that. Despite having a 15.7 shooting percentage — third-best among Leafs who have played 30 or more games — he has taken only 51 shots this season.”

This post is from 2013, but it’s a good look at Kulemin:

“Since his rookie year in 2008-2009, Kulemin has been one of the best forwards for Toronto. From 2009-2013, he ranks sixth in Corsi percentage, seventh in Fenwick percentage, fourth in even-strength points, third in even-strength goals, ninth in even-strength points-per-hour and eighth in Corsi-per-hour. He also ranked second in Rel Corsi QoC and second-last on the team in offensive zone start percentage during the lockout-shortened season.

The Leafs deployed Kulemin in a defensive role alongside Mikhail Grabovski and McClement for the majority of the regular season, and his possession numbers suffered greatly as a result. Kulemin’s Corsi-per-hour and Fenwick-per-hour were by far the lowest of his career. His lack of power play time is another indicator as to why he struggled last season and the year before.”

Secondly, he’d be awesome with Malkin:

The two are apparently good friends.

The Pens might actually have some talented forward depth this season, and they might accomplish it without giving up any additional picks or prospects.