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Nikolay Kulemin Report Card: Penalty Killing is My Business...

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It's My Other Business That Needs Help.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Islanders
Look out. No, not you, goalie.
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Nikolay Kulemin played 81 games this season, scoring 22 points on nine goals and 13 assists. He had two multi-point games, which means he had no points in 61 games. He experienced not one but two massive slumps, one 29-game stretch with no goals and six assists and one 33-game drought in which he had one goal and two assists.

That is not good for a full season. In one extra game last season, Kulemin had a more respectable 15 goals and 16 assists.

But points aren't everything, right? That's what analytics are all about. So, how were his underlying numbers? Turns out, they weren't very good, either.

Kulemin had a 5-on-5 CF% of 47% this season, way down from the 52% he had in 2014-15 (according to corsica.hockey). The Islanders took less shots/60 (28.25) and gave up more shots/60 (30.98) at 5-on-5 with him on the ice than they did last season (30.16 and 27.48, respectively). By himself, Kulemin took 81 even strength shots on goal, as opposed to 101 last season.

In the playoffs, when things seemed like they were finally coming around, Kulemin's 5-on-5 CF% was even worse, finishing at about 37%. Those are some significant steps backward.

Where Kulemin excelled this season was on the penalty kill, where he was one of the team's most trusted forwards.

Per behindthenet.ca, Kulemin averaged 2.08 minutes of PK time per 60, the second most of any forward and just a few fractions of a second behind leader Casey Cizikas (Cal Clutterbuck was third and Frans Nielsen was fourth at just under two minutes). That unit helped the Islanders give up just 27 power play goals this season, the fewest in the league (It could also be 26. It depends on where you look. In any event, they were good).

Okay, so that's nice. But is it nice enough to justify a cap hit of almost $4.2 million for the next two seasons? With all due respect, no. It isn't.

Much like his good friend Mikhail Grabovski, Kulemin's second season as an Islander was a disappointing sequel to a quality first season. The two of them make for a fun, funky pair off the ice. But unlike Grabovki, Kulemin was healthy and present for every game this season save for one. Neither player has much trade value right now, so your hope should be that this season eventually gets written off as one prolonged slump that was intermittently snapped by flashes of special teams excellence.

Kulemin might not be considered one of the team's front line scoring forwards, but producing no points in 75% of your games is a little excessive no matter how good your PK work is, especially at that price. Twenty-two points in 81 games works out to $190, 340 per point.

That's some expensive gravy.