Apr 12, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Nikolai Kulemin (41) skates with the puck in the first period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Rumors: Pittsburgh Penguins eyeing Kulemin, Pouliot

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of work to do after another disappointing playoff failure. They got a head start on things when they traded James Neal in a cap-clearing move. Now they’ll turn their attention to free agency, where the team already has a few names in mind.

Josh Yohe at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Live writes that GM Jim Rutherford covets right winger Nikolai Kulemin among others.

“Among [Pittsburgh's] primary targets is right wing Nikolai Kulemin. General manager Jim Rutherford — along with numerous people on his staff — possesses a high opinion of the 27-year-old forward.”

Kulemin only managed 20 points in 70 games played with the Toronto Maple Leafs this past season, but there’s more to the decision than just point production. The winger played with Evgeni Malkin in Russia and is apparently close friends with the star center, which makes him a stronger play for Pittsburgh, which desperately needs to find more wingers for Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins are also rumored in that same article to be interested in winger Benoit Pouliot, who played a key role in the New York Rangers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. Pouliot scored 15 goals last season, but as Yohe notes, management is “unsure if they will be able to match the free agent’s financial demands.”
The Penguins have just under $15 million in cap space with seven forwards and 5 defensemen under contract, per CapGeek. If they want Kulemin and/or Pouliot, they’ll have to get some creative accounting in the office. As of July 1, there will no doubt be many calculators hard at work in the offices of GMs throughout the NHL.
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Tags: Benoit Pouliot NHL Rumors Nikolai Kulemin Pittsburgh Penguins