Brad Treliving’s to-do list is getting a little bit shorter. The Calgary Flames announced today that they’ve agreed to a new one-year contract with defenseman Brett Kulak. The contract is a two-way pact worth $650,000 at the NHL level.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) August 28, 2017
Kulak will be waiver eligible this season and a contract with a low NHL cap hit makes it more likely he’ll be claimed in the event he hits the waiver wire. When his deal expires, he will once again be a restricted free agent. The signing leaves the Flames with 43 contract spots tied up for 2017-18 and two remaining restricted free agents: Tyler Wotherspoon and Sam Bennett.
Kulak, 23, is arguably one of the organization’s best developmental success stories over the past few seasons.
A fourth round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft, Kulak was a strong Western Hockey League defender but there were some questions about how his playing style could translate to the pro game. He progressed through all three levels of pro hockey in his first pro year, spending time with the Flames (one game), the AHL’s Adirondack Flames (26 games) and the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles (39 games).
His second year saw him open the regular season in Calgary due to T.J. Brodie’s injury, playing eight games before returning to the AHL to be a lynchpin for the Stockton Heat for the duration of that campaign. He spent 21 games last season in Calgary and didn’t look out of place before he was bumped down to Stockton by some roster shuffling.
When we chatted with him at the end of Stockton’s season, head coach Ryan Huska had a lot of positive things to say about Kulak’s progression:
He’s one guy that when you look at playoff situations or our push to get into the playoffs, it’s a time when some guys will fade away into the shadows a little bit and it’s also a time when some guys will step themselves out from the crowd, become more noticeable and become a guy that you lean on, and Brett was one of the guys that stepped out from the crowd in my opinion and that’s a real positive thing when you look at guys, and their growth and their development and where they may get to over the next couple years. I was really pleased with his year. He did a lot of great things for us and he showed a real maturity in his game, both on and off the ice, for us. I think he did an excellent job this year and he’s going to make some tough decisions up top, for sure.
The Flames aren’t about to hand out jobs to anybody quite yet, but Kulak’s done enough to make the sixth defensive spot – on the left side of Michael Stone – his to lose as training camp approaches.