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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Arbitrator awards Brett Kulak $900,000 on one-year deal

Unable to reach a deal on their own, the Flames and Brett Kulak had to turn to an arbitrator to get the latter signed. Now, the arbitrator has handed down their ruling: Kulak will be playing the 2018-19 season on a one-year, one-way deal worth $900,000.

From an outside perspective, Kulak and the Flames’ battle has appeared to be at least somewhat ugly: that the two actually went to arbitration to begin with, let alone waited for the arbitrator to hand down their ruling, is testament that there was some disconnect between the team and player.

The Flames successfully waived Kulak ahead of the meeting, a move that showed he had limited value; they were trying to re-sign him to a league-minimum deal, whereas Kulak’s camp felt he was worthy of a raise into the seven-digit mark. The two were $500,000 apart, so the arbitrator split the difference: a $900,000 cap hit is exactly in between the amounts both parties were asking for.

At this stage, Kulak doesn’t project to be much more than a depth defenceman; the Flames have a number of bodies ahead of him, and quite a few prospects who not only have higher ceilings, but may be ready to make their push for an NHL spot sooner rather than later. This contract guarantees Kulak will be one of the Flames’ lower-paid defencemen, but not the lowest: Dalton Prout, who may be the team’s seventh guy, has a cap hit of $800,000 for the 2018-19 season, while both Rasmus Andersson and Juuso Valimaki’s entry-level contracts fall under $900,000.

Kulak’s arbitration award may put the Flames in a bit of a cap bind, however,  especially after re-signing Mark Jankowski to a $1.675 million cap hit. The team has just under $4.7 million in cap space remaining with four players left to sign: Noah Hanifin, Garnet Hathaway, David Rittich, and Hunter Shinkaruk. At least one likely won’t be in the NHL at all next season, and possibly as many as three; Hanifin is the only one that really needs to be retained in order for them to be able to dress a full roster.

Assuming Hanifin gets a Brandon Montour-esque deal – two years, a $3.3875 cap hit – the Flames would have a little over $1.3 million remaining in space, and that doesn’t account for any potential in-season crises or Matthew Tkachuk bonuses.

It’s going to be tight, but if the Flames are worth their salt, they’re preparing for this: either they can make it work, or there’s a trade or buyout on the horizon.

  • Getpucksdeep

    I notice cap geek has demoted Quine and brought Gillies up into Calgarys cap numbers. $5.3 million left is plenty to bridge Hanafin even if its close to 3 million. Hathaway will get about $750,000? They can still trade Stone to make even more room for Andersson or Valimaki. I think they’d foolish to trade Frolik but on the other hand the forward depth looks pretty darn deep. They could spare him and free up some room if they really want to sit at 3-4 million extra cap space going into the season.

    • cjc

      Yes, I don’t think there is a panic in terms of cap, though they won’t have much room to add at the TDL if they want to load up for the postseason. One thing though, Hanifin has better numbers and more NHL games than Montour, so I can’t see his bridge deal being for any less than 3.5 million.

      Stone is not tradeable at this point, unless Calgary retains salary.

  • Chucky

    Kulak won this and the arbitrator sent Treliving a message to no pull any more funny stuff. Without the last minute waiver Kulak gets a two way.

    If this team is to succeed going forward they need to get rid of the two boat anchor contracts, $4.5 million is too much to pay for a fourth line forward and $3.5 Million is too much to pay for a third pair defenseman.

    Time for Treliving to step up and admit he made a couple of really bad deals before things get tight. If the Flames get to the TDL with these two contracts on the books teams like the Flyers will be offering to take Brower and Gaudreau for a smelly pair of socks, if Treliving doesn’t fold then they take Tkachuk as an RFA because they have the space and the Flames don’t.

    Brad, time to hang your head and admit mistake before the situation gets desperate.

    • cjc

      The team has over 16 million to work with next year, assuming a flat cap. Tkachuk probably isn’t going to top the internal cap (6.75 million), which, worst case, still leaves about 9 million to pay 8 players, one of which will need to be a good goalie. They’ll have internal options like Valimaki, who can fill those holes cheap. They’ll have buyout options in Stone and Brouwer. Yes those are bad deals, yes they put the team in a bad spot, but the sky isn’t falling yet (unless of course the team falls short of the playoffs again).

      • Chucky

        Expiring contracts for next year, Bennett, Lazar, Tkachuck, Quine, Kulak, Prout and Smith. Total value $10.475 Million. They will get $900,000 in buyouts back. They currently have $4.68829 left for this year.
        Assume that they can sign Hanifin for $3 million leaving them $1.68829 for this year, if Hathaway gets something like Quine and Gillies is the backup.

        That leaves $13 million and change.
        Tkachuck is a minimum of $6 million
        A starting goaltender is going to cost $4 million
        That leaves about $3 million to fill 5 spots including Bennett.

        The sky may not be falling but it would be nice to see some movement of the big cost low productivity contracts before the season starts.

  • everton fc

    Kulak’s not going to Stockton. He played 71 games last year. And he played well. Arguably, he was the #5 defender here, many/most nights.

    I think Kulak will surprise management and a lot here, next season.

    That said… He’ll end up like Ferland – traded as part of some package (Ottawa?), especially if he has a very good season. Why? The Flames won’t want to pay him what he’s worth. So they’ll move him, as we have depth to relate him, and this depth, to this fan, does not include Kylington. I could see them moving Kulak, prior to China, as part of some package deal. Which I think would be a mistake, as I still think Kulak’s going to be a good defenceman in this league, for a long time.

    Time will prove Kulak is a better defensemen, and NHL pro, than Kylington.

    I see Valimaki in Stockton for one year, due to the expansion draft coming on the horizon. To me, that’s the smartest move to make. I disagree that Stone is “untradeable” – there are teams that could use him (a team like the Oilers, for example).

    Buyout Brouwer. And I think it would indeed be foolish to move Frolik, when, “on paper”, we are getting so close….