The Montreal Canadiens have made a swap for their minor league defense corps, acquiring Brett Kulak from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Matt Taormina and Rinat Valiev. Kulak will report to the Laval Rocket right away, given that he cleared waivers today for the second time this offseason.
The Flames are one of the deepest teams in the league on defense, even after jettisoning Dougie Hamilton this offseason. Bringing Noah Hanifin back in trade has given them another left-handed lock for the roster, and given the continued presence of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie it didn’t seem like there was much of an opportunity left for Kulak. Further to that, Calgary made it clear what Kulak’s market was when they waived him prior to his arbitration hearing earlier this summer and saw him go unclaimed, only to do it again yesterday. The 24-year old defenseman did play 71 games for the Flames last season, but there obviously weren’t a ton of teams knocking down the door to acquire him given that they could have done it for the small price of taking on his $900K salary.
Montreal is looking for anyone who could help their NHL defense corps down the road, and are obviously willing to take a chance on Kulak ahead of Valiev who they had just acquired last season. The former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect played two games for the Canadiens down the stretch but hasn’t developed into the kind of two-way force that some believed he could be when he was selected 68th overall in 2014. He’ll still be an effective player for the Stockton Heat, but Valiev is quite a distance from being an impact NHL player.
Taormina, the oldest player in the deal at 31, also won’t be impacting the NHL roster for the Flames anytime soon but is an elite offensive defenseman in the minor leagues and has been for a long time. The veteran scored 52 points last season in 63 games for the Rocket and will help to mentor some of the other young defense prospects Calgary has coming through the system but is currently injured and isn’t expected to return until late October at the earliest.