Brett Kulak may not be the hottest name on the market as we approach free agency, but he plays the game hard and is strong defensively. This 28-year-old defensive defenceman played his first full season in the NHL in 2017-18 and has played for three organizations now: the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, and Edmonton Oilers.
Over the past three seasons, Kulak has turned into someone his team can trust in the defensive zone and make his partner better. He has also begun to start a ton of more faceoffs in his own end and has now played in the postseason in three consecutive seasons.
Kulak won’t break the bank, but his services also won’t come dirt cheap, as he can easily play on the third pairing effectively but also log a lot of minutes and play a strong shutdown game higher up if needed. Any team with a little bit of cap space looking for a consistent option on the back end should be interested but he may have already narrowed his choices down.
Does Kulak Re-Sign in Edmonton?
Kulak’s childhood team is the Oilers, and who wouldn’t want to play in their hometown in front of friends and family who are already fans every night while being closer to home? The Oilers have already expressed interest in bringing him back for next season, and general manager Ken Holland is already working on doing so.
Kulak worked wonders for the partners he had during his time in Edmonton in the regular season and playoffs, especially when it came to Tyson Barrie. There’s a sense that Barrie won’t be back next season to free up cap space, but if that’s the case, that may mean a little more money in Kulak’s back pocket. The Oilers have a few up-and-coming young defencemen who could also greatly benefit from playing alongside him.
In Edmonton, Kulak earned a new role, which he expressed gratitude for getting (“Kulak Eyeing The Canadiens”, Le Journal De Montreal, 6/8/22). Head coach Jay Woodcroft saw the impact Kulak had in the defensive zone and gave him regular minutes on the second shorthanded unit. Kulak said, “I just spoke to the coaches and the general manager. I thanked them for giving me these opportunities. They probably gave me more than I had ever had so far in my career. Getting outnumbered playing time and more specific missions helps you improve your game. I feel like I’ve grown a lot.”
Though Kulak may now get that time somewhere else, the Oilers were the first to really give him the opportunity. If a player doesn’t play either the power play or the penalty kill, it really limits the time they spend on the ice per game and the impact they can have. The problem that the Oilers may come across is the available cap and term they are willing to give to him, as they don’t have the most cap space in the world and have to also re-sign restricted free agents, Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Ryan McLeod. They also possibly want to bring back Evander Kane and of course, add a new starting goaltender.
If he chooses to stay a member of his hometown team, the Oilers, he will surely get many more chances immediately at playing meaningful hockey and winning a Stanley Cup.
Kulak Could Head Back to the Canadiens
Kulak will likely receive more playing time and longer term/more money if he heads back to the Canadiens. The defenceman hasn’t ruled out a possible return to the team where he really broke out of his shell, either. Although he would likely have to spend a few years on a rebuilding team, he sat down with the new management before he was traded and liked the direction the organization was heading, “This organization is definitely heading in the right direction…they have already brought big changes to the team. I think they will do a great job.”
Jeff Petry appears to be on the trading block, as the rebuilding Canadiens tear it down and go for high picks while inserting youth into their lineup. He would be able to fetch one of the best returns of their remaining players before he starts to regress with age. They have a number of players general manager Kent Hughes would love to start getting some NHL games in, including Justin Barron, Kaiden Guhle, and Jordan Harris. But they will also need a veteran presence on the back end to eat up minutes, play a more important role, and help the rookies along.
Kulak spent three and a half seasons with the Canadiens while also going on a run to the Cup with the team last season. He stated, “There is definitely a chance that I will be seen again in Montreal. I will definitely think about it. I loved my time with the Canadiens. From day one, I was treated with class. I felt really special to be part of this organization.” He also kept tabs on his former teammates to see how they were and how their seasons were going. It seems like he may be torn between two destinations, and for Kulak, it doesn’t seem like he could go wrong with either choice.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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