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.

  • The Fall

    Kulak just punched his ticket off the roster. His cap hit won’t count against the team when he’s in the AHL. And Val or Ras can play in the NHL for less…

    • FLT

      I don’t think this is much different than the Flames would have expected to pay him, maybe $100k tops. If they didn’t want him around for this year they could have dumped him before now.

      Whether he’s around for 2019-20 is a different story though – he’s a placeholder for the guys you mentioned.

      • canadian1967

        This is a WIN for Kulak, because he was awarded a one way contract and the Flames were offering him a two way, so his Salary is now $900K whether he is in the AHL or the NHL.
        I don’t think the number was important so much as what he will be paid if sent down.

    • idbr

      Agreed. By pushing too fast for too much he has made himself quite expendable. For 650k he is more likely to have a roster spot here. Killington is 200k lower of a cap hit than his 900k. If I were him I’d fire my agent. I guess if there are other moves coming that may not matter as much but I’d be thinking about it as someone trying to establish a name for myself. I think he should have signed for 700k (+ one-way) for his own benefit. Asking for the highest salary when you’re not established doesn’t always lead to the most money in the long-term.

      • canadian1967

        This is a WIN for Kulak, because he was awarded a one way contract and the Flames were offering him a two way, so his Salary is now $900K whether he is in the AHL or the NHL.
        I don’t think the number was important so much as what he will be paid if sent down.

    • oilcanboyd

      Thanks for that info Fall; in that case bury Shink, Hats in the AHL. Put Lazar on waivers too…cap hit problems resolved. Flames have too many contracts for marginal NHLers.

    • Kevin R

      Not sure I understand the logic here, $900K is pretty well what the ELC contracts are for better prospects, so something needs to give. & deep down, I was really hoping for a longterm deal for Hanifin. This Kulak arbitration ruling kinda opens the door for a buyout, which I think is plan B. Im sure plan A is to trade Brouwer or Stone, but teams generally dont help each other out unless they have a nice tidy upside handed to them.

      Also, does anyone have any intel if the Flames have started negotiations on an extension with Byng yet? You would think this would be important as well.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Might be cap hell unless Flames do one of following:
    1) Walk away from this award
    2) Walk away from Hathaway award (or waive him later) unless he signs for about $700K
    3) Ever-popular Brouwer buyout
    4) Popular Stone trade for anything like 4-5th rounder to team needing him with possibly keeping $1M in cap hit

  • 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.