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).

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.

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.

  • Mickey O'McGritty

    I’ll bet there was a lot of “irreconcilable differences” going on behind the scenes. The arbitration, and the waiving in the summer. Kulak wasn’t even in the press box for the last pre-season game against the Oilers.

    Sounds like both sides have their noses out of joint. If Kulak was going to cause a stink in Stockton, or Calgary, then maybe it was just best for everyone for the player to move along.

    • The Real SlimBrodie

      A 60 point season and over 50 the following year is not easily done by a defenseman. Nigel I’m sure our rookies can learn a lot from this guy. I’d like to see your ahl resume, since you know so much about hockey.

  • Baalzamon

    Well that was dumb.

    Why are the Flames allergic to cheap, effective depth players? They either have to be expensive (Stone, Stajan, Brouwer) or awful (Lazar, Hathaway, Glass, Bartkowski). Someone like Kulak comes in and the Flames ditch him because he’s not as talented as a recent first round pick? What were they developing him for for the past six years?

    Taormina should be a good add for the Heat (he scores a lot in the AHL). Valiev is nothing in particular.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      There’s probably a bit of financial motivation here as well. Kulak was getting paid 1-way money.

      Arbitration did not do him any favours either.

      • Porcupine at a balloon party

        That was my thoughts via a comment I made in yesterdays forums. Flames do not like to bury contracts, which is fair, they are a business and while they spend to the cap, they are not a top 10 revenue team and have to skimp on other things (buyouts (they avoid but not completely), high priced coaches/gm’s, paying NHL salaries in AHL etc…). There was definitely a method to BT’s madness of waiving these guys 24 hours ahead of the flurry of guys hitting the waiver wire today.

    • canadian1967

      I’m not privy to any inside info, but it’s possible that Kulak being traded was a promise by mgmt if he didn’t make the team.

      Obviously 5 Valimaki, 6 Andersson, 7 Stone, 8 Kylington and 9 Prout are now ahead of him, so there’s the depth to cover for the “loss” of Kulak.

      Would you still have made your comment if he had been claimed off waivers? At least they got 1.5 AHL Defencemen to replace him instead of nothing.
      After all he didn’t make The Flames and was being sent down regardless.

  • SeanCharles

    Kristen Anderson

    Kulak on the trade/situation in Calgary/numbers game: “Valimaki came in and I thought he played in really well and that’s what they’re going with. Me and Brad talked about that and I understand that…

    Kristen Anderson
    …He was really good to me and he doesn’t want me to sit and not play hockey. He knows I’m an NHL defenceman wants me to get a good opportunity to play and prove myself more and keep developing as a player.”

  • Burnward

    How it’s supposed to work. Guy gets passed by better, younger players. You give him a fresh start and replenish the farm.

    Fair all around, but especially to Kulak.

    • Derzie

      Except the guy who passed him is not quite ready and needs to be managed correctly to avoid losing him in an expansion draft. There’s that as well, which Treliving seems to have ignored.

      • The Doctor

        Stone is clearly our albatross contract this year. Last year it was Brouwer #1 and Stajan #2. From that perspective, we’re far less hampered by albatross contracts than we were last year.

        • HOCKEY83

          If 3.5 mil for a Dman that can play in any pairing and would be a top 4 D man on some teams in this league that aren’t too strong at D is the Flames big Albatross contract this season then the Organization is sitting far prettier that most teams in the league.

        • oilcanboyd

          Seems some fans and coilers need someone to brow beat down…enough already! Stone is what he is and there have been worst contracts given out for even worse defencemen…

      • Stu Gotz

        Agree Andersson is better now has has higher upside but patience is required when managing NHL assets. Stone’s value will increase as his cap hit reduces and teams encounter injuries with their veteran defensemen. Worst case Andersson get’s more games in critical situations in Stockton for a few months…..

        • Burnward

          Couple of tips from a wily vet like Taormina won’t hurt either. Didn’t exactly have a skilled vet to learn from before. Could really help Kylington too.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            The guy is a career AHLer! I’m guessing most Heaters want the AHL to be their stepping stone, not their tombstone, so tips from that guy–just consider the source.

      • Burnward

        I can understand this one. Two rooks + a Brodie you need to bounce back and prove himself + Hanifin…still a kid himself.

        By the trade deadline they’ll have this figured.

  • The GREAT WW

    I have a feeling we are going to regret this “trade” sooner than later.
    Not that Kulak is going to be a superstar, but cheap insurance is never a bad thing…..


    • SeanCharles

      We have Valimaki and Kylington available for LD (not including Healey, Hogstrom, Taormina or Valiev) and Stone, Andersson and Prout available for RD.

      You could make an argument we have 8 NHL calibre dmen and Kylington close so I don’t really see why we would regret it that much.

      I liked Kulak but having young guys like Hanifin, Valimaki and Kylington in the organization to go along with Gio indicates he didn’t really factor into the long-term plans.

      Treliving cared more about the player and his future than about keeping a guy around who probably will only play if there is a significant number of injuries ahead of him on the depth chart.

      How important is any teams #9-10 dman to team success? They clearly want to develop the other, higher end, guys in sheltered roles, which is the right thing to do IMO!

    • HOCKEY83

      Not sure how they could possibly regret trading away Kulak. Can’t even imagine the scenario that would have to take place for the team to have to utter the words “too bad we got rid of Kulak”

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Tough to get much in a trade when the guy was put on waivers 2 times in the last few months. I think the arbitration was the beginning of his demise especially when he couldn’t back it up at training camp.
        A lot of people felt Kulak would be plucked in the expansion draft but he was never considered.