With the trade deadline approaching, Dmitry Kulikov says he has heard his name mentioned as a possible candidate to leave the Panthers.

A first-round pick in 2009, Kulikov has spent his entire NHL career in Florida and says he doesn't want to go anywhere.

Those rumors about him wanting to go back to play in his native Russia? Kulikov says not only are they not true, but he has no idea where they started.

"I would like to face those people saying those things and ask them where they are getting their information,'' said Kulikov, who returned to Russia to play for the KHL's Yaroslavl Locomotiv during the lockout of 2012-13.

"Wanting to go back to Russia? Those words have never come out of my mouth. I think the people starting that are just trying to create more drama for the league or whatever. .-.-. I want to help turn things around here. I want to win here. The year we made the playoffs was like the best thing ever. It's a totally different feeling. I want to feel that again.''

Kulikov got a taste of Russian hockey during the lockout and some thought he might stay. Kulikov was a restricted free agent then and was holding out for a better deal. When the Panthers had a quick training camp once the lockout ended, Kulikov was still in Russia. A deal was struck before the season began, however, and Kulikov flew to New York before meeting the team before the season opener.

"I had a great experience in the KHL during the lockout,'' Kulikov said. "That was my first chance to play there. I left when I was 17. I wanted to play there and see how it is. But that experience was enough for me. I experienced it. My dream since I was a kid was playing here. I'm living the dream.''

Now that contract is about up. Still a restricted free agent, the Panthers hold his contractual rights for another two seasons.

"I try not to listen to those things because they are mostly negative,'' Kulikov said of the rumors. "You never know who is putting them out there or why. I don't focus on them. I'm just playing my game.''

Assistant general manager Mike Santos says the Panthers are still high on Kulikov and want to see him to continue to get better. Although he's in his fifth NHL season, Kulikov is only 23.