July 2, 2010
Kulemin finally signs with LeafsTough negotiations end with two-year deal
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
There will be no KHL for Nikolai Kulemin.
After weeks of often tense negotiations with the Russian winger — and talk he might go home and play in Russia — he agreed to a two-year deal worth $4.7 million US with the Maple Leafs.
The heart of the matter was agent Gary Greenstin’s contention that his client be paid comparible to a first-line NHLer, at a little south of $3 million US a season. The Leafs conceded that Kulemin was much improved after two seasons, especially his defensive work, but argued just as strongly that he was on the top line only because they traded almost all their forwards before the Olympic break.
No merit, no big payday general manager Brian Burke kept repeating.
“Everyone has their different opinions,” Greenstin said Friday after weeks of not commenting on the state of talks. “But I think he’s going to be a great player. We always wanted two years and the money we got was close to what we wanted.”
The Leafs also — as expected — reportedly came to terms with centre John Mitchell on a one-year deal worth $725,000.
Would Kulemin really have bolted to the KHL?
“One team was very interested,” Greenstin said. “But I was honest from the very beginning and told them we want to stay in the NHL.”
Greenstin also said a couple of NHL teams called him after July 1 to talk about possible offer sheets, but by then, negotiations with Toronto had taken a turn for the better.
Kulemin ended his second year as a Leaf with 16 goals and 36 points in 78 games. He averaged 16:22 a night of ice time, was even in plus-minus and had three game-winning goals.
“He was a big part of our team last year and I’m very pleased,” general manager Brian Burke said.
With the changes to the Leafs’ lineup the past week, it’s believed Kulemin will be bumped off the first line by Kris Versteeg.