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.

  • Derzie

    More asset mis-management. Valimaki is not ready and better served to play in the A until he is dominant and we know what Seattle can or can’t take. Stone is not good enough to displace anyone, Kulak and Ras are better than him. Lazar is no longer an NHLer. It’s really quite simple. Yet, here we are. 2 more guys to take away D spots in Stockton. I really, really don’t like Treliving’s thinking, or lack thereof.

    • Porcupine at a balloon party

      agreed that neither players coming back will help NHL team, but there is a lot more going on than what you’re seeing on the surface. read between the lines. Culture (disgruntled player), NHL salary in AHL (only so much money in BT’s budget), AHL depth is actually a thing (they want Stockton to do well, not only for winning culture for development, but they also have their affiliate status up for negotiation after this year I believe) etc…. There’s probably more going on behind scenes than I’m stating here too

  • 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…..

  • 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…..


      • 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.

    • 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”

  • 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.

    • The GREAT WW

      Having a third pairing D buried in the AHL seems like a smart insurance policy…..

      I don’t buy it for one second that BT did this to be a nice guy to Kulak. That sounds like a dumb CHIARELLI move.
      I think negotiations got ugly to the point where BT couldn’t stand the sight of Kulak and moved him…..


      • First Name Unidentified

        Now that would be personal, not so much a professional move. Whereas I do believe good GMs have a history of doing that to resurrect careers. I believe Tre is a good GM. He rectifies his mistakes and gives players opportunity. Heck, Kulak cleared waivers twice, so there’s that.