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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.



    • Squishin

      YES. Get BrouwBrouw out of here! I have heard many arguments both for and against a buyout, and all of them are valid. Personally for me, the kicker is the roster spot he’s taking up. We have kids coming up and they will get blocked.

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        Plus, if he ever got scratched he would whine like a baby. The good-in-the-room narrative is BS as far as I’m concerned with Brouwer.

        How can the other players respect anyone who completely dog-facked it a couple of years ago, and was wearing a letter before he even played a game. Just get rid of the guy.

        • kirby

          Yeah i always cringed seeing him wear the letter. Always seemed like one of those “he’s older so he must be a leader” assumptions, but the guy always came across as a loafer to me. But the lack of team toughness and team accountability over recent years makes a lot of sense when you consider the organization was leaning on guys like him to guide the way.

          At this point, i almost don’t care what dead cap he eats for how many years. Just a waste of time and space to have him here.

  • Trevy

    Here comes the part where people panic thinking that Treliving is just now realizing his remaining cap is shrinking fast. Guarantee management is prepared and more moves are coming, so step off the ledge

  • FL?MES

    $900K for a capable 3rd pairing Dman is reasonable and probably in line with where you want to be. The arbitrator picked a number more or less in the middle, where I’m sure BT expected it would fall. No surprise here. Carry on…

    • kirby

      Would have liked to see it come in a bit lower since what Kulak was asking for was illogically high to begin with. If the arbitrators will just blindly split the difference every time, then it will just encourage players in his situation to price themselves absurdly high just to get a higher salary rewarded through arbitration. $700-800K would have been more than fair, but nothing for us to lose sleep over one way or the other i guess.

  • First week of October, when they submit the opening day roster to the NHL, is when I will start panicking about the salary cap if needed. There will definitely be training camp and pre-season injuries, not to mention moves made by other teams over the summer. Plenty of time to ship bodies out once the people you want are signed and the season is actually in sight.

    • Getpucksdeep

      I still think someone will get traded after the China trip. They need warm bodies until then. Kulak? Stone? Both, a forward? October is still a long way off.

    • Hubcap1

      “Maybe he just became a nice cheap depth option for someone ‘going for it’ come next season’s trade deadline.” What do you think the Flames are going to be doing then? Are you hoping they’ll be in mass sell-off mode?

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • MDG1600

    It’s had to imagine Kulak on the opening night roster. Unless he knocks it out of the park in pre-season I predict he either gets traded, picked off of waivers or sent to the minors.

    • Jobu

      This is why clients ask for a rediculously high number for their situation and teams low ball them as far down as they can go. The easy thing for an arbitrator to do without getting backlash from one side or the other, or bad press, is to meet EXACTLY in the middle.

      • Justthateasy

        I would venture that Kulak’s ask was in reaction to the low-ball offered him. The opening salvo would have come from management. He had to raise his ask the same proportion higher than the potential middle ground. Good on Kulak. Two can play hardball. Tre is to blame if there is any future animosity.

  • Sea of Redd

    That’s a win for Kulak. The flames wanted a 2 way contract so they didn’t have to pay him 900k if he went to the AHL. Either way, he’s getting paid now.

    Also, not sure why Ari is including Rittich, Hathaway and Shinkaruk against the cap hit. If Rittich makes the team, then Gillies is out, so that’s a wash. Capfriendly also has Quine & Lazar on the team. I’m going on the limb here and say those 2 plus Hathaway and Shinkaruk aren’t making the team. Maybe count 1 of them against the cap. That leaves more room than zero. Maybe someone else can do the math….math is difficult.

    • idbr

      Does the league require a 23 man roster? I think you have to take that into account when adding up the CAP. I don’t think we can send all those guys down or out via waivers without bringing someone back up to replace their CAP.

    • Searsy

      Someone asked for the math. I posted this earlier today after Janko’s deal, but before Kulak’s:

      The way I see it is that we have 12 signed guaranteed forwards for a total of $46,800,000 (Johnny, Monny, Neal, Backs, Lindholm, Brouwer, Frolik, Ryan, Janko, Bennett, Czarnik and Tkachuk), 5 guaranteed SIGNED D for a total of $19,557,542 (Gio, Brodie, Hamonic, Stone and Prout) and 2 signed goalies for a total of $5 million (Smith and Gillies).

      That’s a total cap hit of $71,357,543 for 19 players. That leaves us with $8,142,457 for the remaining 4 active NHL roster spots (2 F and 2D).

      The only unsigned player left I feel is guaranteed a roster spot is Hanifin. Let’s set him aside for a minute. For the remaining 2 forward spots, the signed options are Lazar (950K), Quine (700K), Foo (925K), Mangiapane (725K), Dube (778K) etc etc. PLUS Hathaway (currently unsigned, but should not exceed $1mil). Choosing any two of those will not exceed $2mil and they can be interchanged throughout the season. While some on that list are waiver eligible, if they’re sent down you remove their cap hits for cap purposes whether they’re on one way deals or not.

      So, of the remaining $8,142, 457 I’ve now spent $2,000,000 max on the final two forwards.

      One of the final 2 D will be Hanifin, but let’s do the other D first. The options will be Kulak (arb award later today – will not exceed $1 mil and likely more like 750K), Andersson (756K), Valimaki (894K), and Kylington (731K). In all cases, the cap hit of whoever wins the roster spot will be less than 900K.

      So let’s take our remaining cap space of $6,142,457 and spend 900K on one of the two D we’re missing.

      That leaves $5,242,000 roughly to deal with Hanifin. This does not take into account any bonuses. The point is we have loads of room for a Montour like bridge deal for Hanifin here without having to make any other roster adjustments.

      I think a lot of times, people just look at the available cap space on Capfriendly and then look at who is left to sign and freak out without remembering that Capfriendly is counting players who are signed to one way NHL contracts, but who may not play in the NHL this season.

      The way I see it is that we have 12 signed guaranteed forwards for a total of $46,800,000 (Johnny, Monny, Neal, Backs, Lindholm, Brouwer, Frolik, Ryan, Bennett, Czarnik and Tkachuk), 5 guaranteed SIGNED D for a total of $19,557,542 (Gio, Brodie, Hamonic, Stone and Prout) and 2 signed goalies for a total of $5 million (Smith and Gillies).

      That’s a total cap hit of $71,357,543 for 19 players. That leaves us with $8,142,457 for the remaining 4 active NHL roster spots (2 F and 2D).

      The only unsigned player left I feel is guaranteed a roster spot is Hanifin. Let’s set him aside for a minute. For the remaining 2 forward spots, the signed options are Lazar (950K), Quine (700K), Foo (925K), Mangiapane (725K), Dube (778K) etc etc. PLUS Hathaway (currently unsigned, but should not exceed $1mil). Choosing any two of those will not exceed $2mil and they can be interchanged throughout the season. While some on that list are waiver eligible, if they’re sent down you remove their cap hits for cap purposes whether they’re on one way deals or not.

      So, of the remaining $8,142, 457 I’ve now spent $2,000,000 max on the final two forwards.

      One of the final 2 D will be Hanifin, but let’s do the other D first. The options will be Kulak (arb award later today – will not exceed $1 mil and likely more like 750K), Andersson (756K), Valimaki (894K), and Kylington (731K). In all cases, the cap hit of whoever wins the roster spot will be less than 900K.

      So let’s take our remaining cap space of $6,142,457 and spend 900K on one of the two D we’re missing.

      That leaves $5,242,000 roughly to deal with Hanifin. This does not take into account any bonuses. The point is we have loads of room for a Montour like bridge deal for Hanifin here without having to make any other roster adjustments.

      I think a lot of times, people just look at the available cap space on Capfriendly and then look at who is left to sign and freak out without remembering that Capfriendly is counting players who are signed to one way NHL contracts, but who may not play in the NHL this season.

  • Greg

    Ah the doldrums of summer… there’s literally no cause for concern here at all. But it’s “news” so it gets me excited anyway lol.

    Also, just cause it’s fun to overreact… Bryout! Bryout! Bryout! Bryout!

  • 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

  • dontcryWOLF

    How do I become an arbitrator? Easiest job ever. Everyone says before the ruling, ” it’ll be right down the middle”. That that’s what it is almost every time. I could roll out of bed and hand out verdicts like that every day.

  • Thunder1

    July made out like a bandit… one year to UFA. Might as well bank half a mil and use their gym. Tre’s facked now…watch Brodes or somebody get shipped East for penny’s on the dollar. Hanifin’s gonna’ cost cuz’ he’s worth it!

  • Mitchell

    I thought the offer extended to kulak originally was pretty ridiculous. A two way, 650 k contract for a serviceable third pairing defenceman who just played a full year? I also think kulak was asking for a little too much. 100k (even less) is a substantial amount of money for players that get paid this much though, so I don’t really blame him for trying to get what he thinks he is worth. It’s cheap by NHL standards. I don’t really understand the hate for it. There are players on this team that are worse, and are paid more (Brower, stone, and Lazar), so redirect the hate.

    • C-of-Dread

      I’ve seen the armchair GM feature on CF before, but have never dabbled with it. I like it. Although you’ll be crucified for the way you constructed that line-up, (which I actually don’t mind) which basically encompasses what the cap will look like. It certainly shows what it will look like, at worst, if we must keep Stone and Brouwer, and Hanifin gets a higher than expected raise.

      Obviously, we’d like 1 of, or both Valimaki and Anderson to crack the line-up, but if they do, they won’t negatively impact the Cap.

  • The Fall

    we didn’t have a good year and missed the playoffs and there were consequences. People lost their jobs and their lives were turned around. We shouldn’t all be sitting here thinking we need to triple our salaries. That’s not the way it works here.”

    – Tre

    (boom)

    • C-of-Dread

      Does this mean that if Brad Treliving had to renegotiate his contract this summer, he would accept a 2-way deal that paid him 10% of his salary if the Flames decided to send him to Stockton and bring Brad Pascal up to fill his roll with the Flames because ownership thought he’d earned it, and Tre wasn’t hitting his targets?

      Would he accept the low ball offer on his personal contract based on the team results guided by an inexperienced coach that was hired by the guy who was now low balling me?

      Does this mean that Bennett, Tkachuk, and Kulak can ask for triple their salary next year if the team does well? (Obviously, Byng will more than triple his next year, hopefully Bennett puts himself in the same position)

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Kul-Aid kick Tre’s a** on this one! Let’s hear it for the boy!

    Now does Tre turnaround and blame any cap crunch issue on a guy earning $900K?

    Tre’s arbitration offer was absolutely insulting, so this matter likely resolves itself with Kulak being dealt, which I think would be a mistake. Stone should be moved before Kulak.