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.