On the surface, it’s a pretty minor move; however, there may be some bigger implications to be found.
The Flames still have just 22 healthy players with Troy Brouwer out. However, there’s been a swap of defencemen: Brett Kulak is back up with the Flames, and Tyler Wotherspoon is back down with the Stockton Heat.
Back on Dec. 8, the Flames made their first swap, demoting Kulak and recalling Wotherspoon. Kulak had been sitting a lot – his last NHL game was on Nov. 27, a 5-3 loss to Philadelphia in which he only played 11:50. Kulak wasn’t playing, so it made sense to demote him and get him playing again (and top minutes, at that).
But the Flames still required an extra defenceman, and so it was Wotherspoon, one of just four qualified RFAs from the offseason, who came up. He played four games for the Flames over the past month, averaging 10:54 in ice time, taking four shots on net, and that’s about it.
When Wotherspoon was re-signed in the offseason, it was to a one-year worth $625,000. It was a “show me” contract, and it doesn’t look like Wotherspoon has shown too much. We’ve seen it, and considering the circumstances surrounding him – this is his fourth professional season, his sixth season since he was drafted, he was retained on an extremely cheap deal that would make it easy to cut bait, and the Flames have shown a willingness to not even qualify their RFAs if they think there’s no potential future value there – then it’s not too difficult to wonder if this is it for Wotherspoon as a Flame.
Of course, that’s a pretty quick leap to a conclusion – but still, considering how he’s barely played and the massive letting go this past offseason, along with a generally underwhelming performance, well.
Kulak, on the other hand, played 15 NHL games before he was demoted, averaging 14:43 in them. He played over 20 minutes on two separate occasions. He’s a rookie who has had his struggles, but overall when compared to Wotherspoon, he looked to be the better of the two.
Kulak is also, like, the Engelland Whisperer – he seems to be the partner who brings out the very best of what Deryk Engelland has to offer.
His recall makes one wonder if this means we’ll get to see much more of Kulak for the rest of the season. Swapping Wotherspoon and Jyrki Jokipakka in and out of the lineup wasn’t yielding much; Kulak has more potential than both of them, and to get to see him back at the NHL level should make things regarding his future a lot clearer.
Maybe it will also give the Flames another regular option to play on defence, which could make them more comfortable to sell somebody else at the trade deadline? Again, baseless speculation, but the logic is there.
Kulak will be an RFA after this season; it’s difficult to see him not being re-signed. Over his time in Stockton he played 11 games, scoring a goal and five points.