Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames trade Brett Kulak to Montreal Canadiens for Matt Taormina, Rinat Valiev

Brett Kulak has had a tumultuous offseason with the Flames: from going to arbitration to clearing waivers, the Flames’ sixth defender from the 2017-18 season hasn’t really seemed to be in the team’s plans.

Now, he officially isn’t any longer. The Flames have traded Kulak to the Canadiens for defencemen Matt Taormina and Rinat Valiev.

Kulak, 24, played 71 games for the Flames over the course of the 2017-18 season, a steady, if somewhat unspectacular, presence on the Flames’ bottom pairing. He scored his first two NHL goals and registered eight points, all while averaging 12:59 in ice time. He had a 52.14% 5v5 CF (fourth amongst Flames defencemen, behind Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and Rasmus Andersson) with a 51.9 zone start ratio (fourth lowest amongst defencemen, ahead of TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Michael Stone).

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In short: Kulak got the job done, but with the success of prospects like Juuso Valimaki, he was seen as expendable.

Taormina and Valiev, meanwhile, are two left-shot defencemen coming from the Canadiens’ system.

Taormina, who will turn 32 on Oct. 20, is a 5’10, 182 lb. undrafted defenceman with just 59 NHL games to his name. He spent his entire 2017-18 season playing for the Laval Rocket in the AHL, registering 52 points over the course of 63 games. He should be a great veteran presence for a Heat team that’s looking increasingly competitive due to some junior prospect graduations and offseason signings.

Valiev, 23, was a third round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2014. The 6’3, 215 lb. defender joined the Canadiens organization as part of the return in the Tomas Plekanec trade. He only has 12 NHL games to his name to date – 10 in 2015-16, and two this past season – and has failed to make any major impacts on the big league scoresheet. In 45 AHL games in 2017-18, he scored 18 points total.

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Both players have one year left on deals with a cap hit of $650,000. Taormina will be a UFA following this season, while Valiev will be an RFA.

Kulak is probably better than both players, but this move does give the Heat more options at defence, and there’s no telling what his and the Flames’ relationship turned into following arbitration – and the Flames and Habs were reportedly exploring a trade option for him over the summer, about the time his hearing was looming, as well.

If Kulak was no longer in the team’s plans, then at least he gets the chance to go somewhere else where he might be.

  • oilcanboyd

    Nice to read that Lazar would rather go to the Heat and play full-time to get his career back on track than to stay with the Flames getting few games and few minutes in games. Bye-bye!

  • RKD

    So what if Kulak went to arb who cares if it soured management he had his rights. This could turn around and come back to bite the Flames if Kulak flourishes in Montreal like Byron has.

    • MontanaMan

      Reading some of these comments, you’d think Kulak was the second coming of Bobby Orr. Guess what folks. He was placed on waivers twice and not one team picked him up. Yes he’s a decent d-man but don’t think he’s suddenly going to turn into Erik Karlsson because he won’t. These guys are good players that could earn a few looks in a new environment (Byron) but let’s be realistic in what Kulak is and what he isn’t.

    • cberg

      You’re right. Kulak could find that scoring touch and speed he lost a few levels ago, force his way onto the Habs as a top-pairing D, and single-handedly lead them back to the playoffs. Good for him when he does…..

  • aye

    I think this move is also a shot of confidence in Kylington that they think he is also ready and can be called upon in case of injuries to LD. I honestly thought Kylington looked pretty good in camp, and his defensive game has definitely improved, and is a lot better than many give him credit for.

    • SeanCharles

      I agree..

      He doesn’t get enough credit for the work he has done to refine his game over the last 3 season in the AHL.

      He’s still fine tuning some details in his game but I have high hopes for him.

    • cjc

      Not sure why so many are down on Kylington, but I think it’s a case of confirmation bias. Everyone was told the reason that Kylington dropped in the draft was a bad attitude and no defensive responsibility. Whatever the truth of those rumours, people then amplify any holes in his game because they’re expecting to see them.

      It matters not to people that Kylington is over half a year younger than Andersson, yet scored at a similar pace with weaker partners and less ice time. He could be a middle pairing guy in Calgary in a few years time.

      • wot96

        Good point. He has played pro for so long, in Sweden and North America, it feels like he should be a finished product and he isn’t. He is still quite young. Maybe it’s frustration over the pace of improvement too. You usually hear that you can teach defence but offence is something you have or you haven’t got. So…why is his defence coming along so slowly? Or…is it?

        • cjc

          I think age has more to do with development than pro experience. I also think it is a bit of the Erik Karlsson/PK Subban situation (not saying he is as good as either of those guys) where a player who is offensively creative gets ripped for the occasional gaffe. To hear Huska tell it, Kylington’s defensive play seemed to be coming along just fine and, let’s face it, few of us have had the opportunity to watch him play on a regular basis.

          • Stockton's Finest

            I watch Kylington on a regular basis. He still plays on middle pair, and bet he will this season as well. His defensive game is still a work in progress (I will be nice). Yes, he puts up points, but he is constantly using his speed to catch up when out of position.
            In one game this preseason (he did not play in Bakersfield), he made some good plays and some bad ones.
            For a guy going into his 4th year, you would expect top line minutes in the AHL.
            Valamaki and Andersson are definitely ahead of him.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Not at all. When the Sens gave up on young Lazar and Tre stupidly overpaid a 2nd rounder for him, so many here supported the deal claiming Lazar had been misused in Ottawa and that a lengthy bout with mono had set him back. While both reasons had merit, they couldn’t hide the fact that Lazar didn’t have the talent to hold down an NHL job.

        Another case was Dougie Hamilton’s apparent fall from grace in Boston because of personality issues. Tre rolled the rumours were either bull or that his strong dressing room leadership would iron out Dougie’s character flaws. Didn’t happen and Tre was forced to move his once most precious bauble.

        Sometimes rumours are true, but we choose not to believe them because we aren’t quite ready to accept the truth.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Are you sure? Kylington was a pretty early training camp cut, which tells me that he was not even close to making the roster. Stone, Valimaki and Andersson are already ahead of him as is the designated goon. Bringing back a pair of defenders in the Kulak deal might have been done to light a fire under Kylington’s fanny.

      • wot96

        I think retaining Valimaki over him is far more likely to light a fire under his a$$ than getting a couple of middling guys that look like career AHLers. In fact, the latter he should find encouraging as it is unlikely they will supercede him in the talent pool and the departure of Kulak actually clears a space ahead of him on the left side.

      • LannyMac

        Thx for revealing the truth Blue Moon. Most here can’t see the truth for whatever reason don’t care to know. Kylington will never be a regular in NHL and Doug’s demeanour and time in front of a camera was enough for me. Not to mention his selfishness on the ice should have spoke volumes to flames Mgmt before they traded for him. Well done Blue

  • Chucky

    This is a very strange move
    On the left side they have
    Giordano, Hanifin Vlimaki and the depth is Kylington with 1 game and Valiev with 2 games NHL experience

    On the right side
    Brodie, Hamonic Anderson with depth of Stone 425 games and Prout 242 games.

    Really quite confusing unless there is another move on the books.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      It’s Tre being Tre. Say what you will about his ability to hammer out favourable contracts to the homegrown help, but his record on trades has not been satisfactory. This is yet another deal where he will be left holding the dirty end of the stick.

      • Demeo8

        Buddy 11 points in 92 games. You make it sound like he’s something special… get off his d buddy he’s not good get over it. He got passed by 9 better defenseman. You talk about truths. Well this is the truth. Get it thru your small head. 2 ahl defenseman that get around the same amount of points kulak would get I’m the nhl. But he got 2 ahl defenders for 1 ahl defender and your complaining. Come on dude get real.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          First off, if you are using points to measure the effectiveness of a defensive defenceman, you are way off. Second, neither of the guys who came back in the deal have played anywhere near as many games in the NHL as Kulak. The older one might never again play an NHL game. Finally, nobody is calling Kulak great. He is a serviceable and affordable 3rd pairing defender. Put things into perspective.

        • LannyMac

          K demo when you demean someone like Blue by saying he has a small head you become a bully and a jerk. Why be an a$$hole so you have difference of opinion why be rude. I happen to absolutely disagree with your comments but what would it prove to be rude to you. Give your touque a spin.

  • freethe flames

    My only concern about losing Kulak is that if we are in the hunt for a playoff spot come trade deadline the cost of acquiring a Kulak type defender will likely be more than we received in the trade.
    This is why I am reluctant to trade Stone. Teams that compete for the Cup have good organizational depth on D and at center.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      The problem with Stone is his contract which includes another year after this one. Money will be tight here if Chucky improves on last year’s stellar campaign and the club decides to sign an elite FA goalie or trade for one who brings with him a hefty contract. Indeed, if the goaltending falters this season and Tre can’t fix it on the hop, I can’t see how he can keep his job, nor can I see the new GM going down the same road by rolling with a dodgy goalie. Big bucks will be spent, to be sure.