The Edmonton Oilers have entered into the trade deadline fray. They have acquired defenseman Brett Kulak from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for William Lagesson, a conditional 2022 second-round pick, and a 2024 seventh-round pick. The Canadiens will retain 50 percent of Kulak’s remaining salary. If the Oilers reach the Stanley Cup Final this season, the conditional pick will become a 2023 second-round pick.
In Kulak, the Oilers get a defenseman who, like most of the Canadiens team, has come into his own with the departure of former GM Marc Bergevin and the arrival of new coach Martin St. Louis. He has been given a larger role in Montreal’s lineup compared to the more inconsistent roles he dealt with in the past and has responded with one of the best stretches of games of his career. He’s a good skater who can help in the transition game, although his offense isn’t anything to write home about. He has 13 points this season in 56 games and had eight points in 46 games last season. He can hold his own defensively enough to not be a liability but it would be a mistake for Oilers fans to expect a minute-munching penalty killer. He also isn’t an overwhelming physical presence but as the Canadiens have lost defensemen to injuries and trades, and relied more on a younger and more inexperienced defensive corps Kulak has been able to show a bit more snarl to his game. At an expiring $1.85MM cap number, Kulak is a reasonable add for an Oilers’ blueline that could use another solid contributor like Kulak. Though, with the cost being a second-rounder and Lagesson, one wonders if the price is a bit too steep. But with the prior trades of Jeremy Lauzon for a second-rounder and Ben Chiarot for a first-rounder, it is clear that defensemen are at a premium.
For the Canadiens, getting a second-rounder alone is a great return for Kulak, a pending unrestricted free agent. While the team is surging and Kulak has been a big part of that, building the team’s future is more important than the rest of this season. They add another high draft pick to an ever-increasing stable of picks, and unless Kulak gets an extension in Edmonton they still do have the option of approaching him in free agency this summer. The team also gets Lagesson in return. Lagesson, 26, is a Swedish defender who cleared waivers earlier this season. He has gotten into 30 games so far this year and has four points. He needs to play in eighteen more games for the Canadiens to be eligible to retain his rights as an unrestricted free agent. He’s a defense-first defender who should be able to help them down the stretch as they recover from the loss of Kulak and Chiarot. Overall, it’s a bit of a steep price to pay for the Oilers but not a totally unreasonable one, and for the Canadiens, they get a valuable draft pick for a player set to hit unrestricted free agency.