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Panthers re-sign Dmitry Kulikov, suddenly have a pretty decent defense

Calgary Flames v Florida Panthers

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SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 4: Bryce Van Brabant #48 of the Calgary Flames pursues Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Florida Panthers as he skates with the puck at the BB&T Center on April 4, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers re-signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on Friday, inking the Russian blueliner to a three-year, $13 million contract extension.

Kulikov, 23, was coming off his two-year bridge contract, which carried a cap hit of $2.5 million. The new deal bumps that number up to $4.33 million, making him the second highest-paid member of the Panthers defense corps behind Brian Campbell's deal, which pays him just north of $7 million.

Speaking of the Florida defense corps, with this extension, it's pretty well set now, and after the summer the Panthers have had, it's actually looking pretty impressive. 

Kulikov is the third of their young blueliners to sign an extension this month. Erik Gudbrandson signed his two-year bridge contract last week, and Dylan Olsen, likely the team's sixth defenseman, did the same earlier this week.

And of course, Florida will likely also bear witness to the rookie season of first overall pick Aaron Ekblad.

Guiding the kids through this transitional stage: the aforementioned Brian Campbell, and free agent signing Willie Mitchell, who comes to the Panthers fresh off another Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings. Those two play very different games, but the one thing they have in common is experience, and that's what this developing group needs most.

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