Nikolai Kulemin Re-Signs with Toronto Maple Leafs

Curtis NgContributor IIIJuly 20, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 09:  Nikolei Kulemin #41 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a faceoff during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on February 9, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

On Friday morning, CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported via Twitter that restricted free agent Nikolai Kulemin would be the recipient of a two-year deal.

TSN's Darren Dreger followed up with financial terms:

To be specific. Kulemin will get $2.6 is 1st year and $3 mil in 2nd for $2.8 aav with Leafs.

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 20, 2012

The two parties were able to avoid a salary arbitration hearing that was scheduled for July 26.

Kulemin's previous contract was a two-year deal that paid him $2.35 million a year.

The 26-year-old winger posted a career-high 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games played during the 2010-11 season, but his production slipped to just seven goals and 28 points in 70 games played during the 2011-12 season.

It's hard to fault him for it, though—it seemed like nothing was going in for him.

With the depth the Toronto Maple Leafs have on wing, it is possible Kulemin will start the upcoming season on the third line.

However, he has shown himself to be capable of playing in a top-six role, so that gives the Leafs flexibility in terms of potential line-juggling.

His new $2.8 million cap hit is a bargain and would have been much higher had he posted another 30-goal campaign last year.

The two-year term is good for Kulemin because it gives him a little security as well as ample time to prove himself to the club that drafted him.

Despite the dip in points, Kulemin was one of the more defensively responsible forwards for the blue and white last season and the Leafs are happy to have him back for two more years. They would be even happier to have him rebound back to 30-goal form (or at least 20-goal form) so they can hand him a big contract in two years' time.

With his signing, the Leafs locked up their most important restricted free agent for two more years.

Next on the list are goalie Ben Scrivens, who may or may not be backing up James Reimer this fall, and defenseman Cody Franson, who might be trade bait this summer.