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Caps Interested in Team Russia Captain?

August 16, 2015, 4:11 PM ET [4 Comments]
Eric Mellin
Washington Capitals Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
“It’s a good league, and it’s an honor to play there. I’m sure Ilya will make the right choice and will get his contract over there.” - Ak Bars Head Coach, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov.

As reported on the KHL's website, Team Russian Captain, defenseman Ilya Nikulin, is looking to make the jump to the NHL, and it's very possible that the Washington Capitals are interested in bringing his experience to DC.

Nikulin is a steady defenseman with offensive upside. In 363 career KHL games, he has tallied 58 goals and 160 assists for a total of 218 points with his best season coming in 2010-11 when he racked up 41 points in 49 games.

Selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in second round of the 2000 NHL entry draft, Nikulin never made the jump into the NHL. The 6'3", 223lbs defenseman started his pro career in the Russian Super League with Dynamo Moscow before heading to the KHL in 2005.

If Nikulin makes his way to the NHL now at 33, he could have a hard time landing a top-4 spot as the d-man will want a contract worthy of a veteran defenseman - at around $3M or so.

Why would the Caps be interested?

Because Nikulin is one of Alex Ovechkin's best friends, even playing Godfather to Nikulin's son.

With the Caps not having a set 3rd pairing defensemen, it isn't out of the realm of possibility for Nikulin to squeeze in a steal a spot from Nate Schmidt or Dmitry Orlov. However, the Caps only have about $450K in cap space, which will change when certain players get sent down to Hershey before the start of the season.

Nikulin would take some time getting used to the North American game, especially the smaller ice surfaces and flow of an NHL match. A third pairing would be a nice way to slowly acclimate him, and his usefulness on the power play would be a bonus.

It's a long shot, but anything is possible right now. Orlov doesn't have a guaranteed spot on the roster, especially since it has taken so long for him to recover from his broken wrist. He's also an RFA next year and needs to have a good season if he wants to stick around.

So, GMBM will have to get pretty creative if he wants Nikulin to sign, but anything is possible this time of year.

More to come...
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