Flames recall Brett Kulak, return Tyler Wotherspoon to Stockton

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.

  • deantheraven

    Kulak deserves more ice in the NHL.Wotherspoon still might pan out and Kevin will always be a 3rd pairing guy. Somebody’s gotta go at the deadline in order to make room and get value. I’m not holding my breath for that Wideman for two second rounders deal…

    Hopefully that side deal with Vegas to take Engelland works out so we don’t end up losing one of our young D prospects for nothing.

      • supra steve

        Vegas is to be given early access to unprotected UFAs, if they sign one (like Engelland) then it counts as their expansion draft selection from the Flames, so it is possible. I don’t think it’s probable, but it could happen.

  • JumpJet

    I’d like to see Kulak get some more minutes, ideally with Brodie on the second pair. If he can establish himself in that position it solves a big problem for the Flames.

  • PrairieStew

    I’m not ready to throw in the towel on Wotherspoon yet. He’s just 300 days older than Kulak and has only 210 pro games to his credit, 300 being an acepted number for developmental gestation. Another solid 30 games plus playoffs in Stockton before one decides whether he is back. The Flames have been fortunate so far this year, not having any injuries on the back end (touch wood), so the 6.7.8. guys which include these 2 and Jokipakka have had to share the one roster spot and its’ corresponding limited role.

    It’s interesting that some think Kenney Morrisson might have passed Wotherspoon by. Morrisson is over a year older, but hasn’t been around as long, having played a year of US junior and 3 of college before going pro. At this point Morrisson’s only advantage is his RH shooting status.

    If we lose Kulak or Jokipakka in the expansion draft – all the more reason to retain Wotherspoon to allow Kylington to continue to develop.

    • everton fc

      I don’t think Morrison will ever play in the NHL. Wotherspoon has the better chance, agreed. But I wonder if the Flames will give Morrison a look? Not saying we chould.

      Jokipaaka may have more value for Vegas. At least I hope so, as I see Kulak here for many years, at a good cap-hit. He’s ready.

    • Baalzamon

      There’s also the fact that Morrison is a bottom pair for Stockton. Kulak/Wotherspoon, Kylington, Andersson, and (for some reason) Doetzel make up Stockton’s top four. That’s three lefties and one righty, so there’s a clear path for Morrison to pick up more minutes (for example, in place of Doetzel with Kylington), only he didn’t. When Kylington was away it was Keith Aulie that moved up.

  • everton fc

    Wotherspoon’s done here.

    I wonder what we could get for Jokipaaka, from a team hurting for defenders? I think Kulak’s a better player right now. Just my opinion, of course.

    That said, no other defenders are ready for NHL duty, on the farm in Stockton. Andersson’s speed would expose him at the next level, I think – but he’s +18. Pretty impressive.

    Kylington’s not ready (Conroy interview on the FAN last week was very comprehensive and direct about Kylington)… The onyl guy who may have a stretch-of-a-shot at seeing a #7 d-man roster spot is Morrison. But he’s -6, though I don’t knwo the details of his role/usage/”underlying #’s”….

  • Craig

    I like this move, the bottom pairing with Engelland and whomever has not been great over the past couple of weeks.

    I really like Kulak and think he belongs at the NHL level.