Almost unbelievably, given recent history, another salary arbitration case has gone to hearing today without a contract resolution. The Calgary Flames, defenseman Brett Kulak, and their respective representatives sat down with the arbitrator this morning and Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson says that the parties emerged from the meeting a few hours ago. The two sides now have an approximate 48-hour window to reach an extension settlement on their own terms. Once the formal decision is made on Wednesday, the awarded contract will be final.
Similar to the Jacob Trouba case – the decision handed down yesterday – it seems like the Flames and Kulak are content to await the arbitrator’s judgement, though. Calgary considers Kulak to be a replacement-level, fringe NHL player. They established that when they filed at the minimum $650K for a two-way contract in their arbitration brief and then enforced it when they placed Kulak on waivers on Friday. Kulak and his reps feel that he has established himself as a regular in the league and is deserving of a one-way deal worth more than $1MM. There is a convincing case to be made on both sides and countless comparable contracts to cite, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground when even the nature of the contract is in dispute, nevertheless salary and term. It’s been all quiet on both sides in recent days and the next 48 hours seem likely to go unused.
The Flames may also be preoccupied with two more upcoming arbitration cases and willing to take what they get from the arbitrator rather than spend time continuing negotiations with Kulak’s side. Calgary faces forward Mark Jankowski on Friday and goaltender David Rittich on Saturday, two players likely to play a larger role for the Flames this season and beyond than Kulak. Such a busy arbitration schedule is far from the norm for Calgary; beat writer Darren Haynes points out that the Flames have reached the hearing stage of salary arbitration with just one player – Lance Bouma in 2015 – in the last ten years. If nothing changes, they are less than a week away from quadrupling that total.