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Old 08-13-2019, 08:33 AM   #1
agulati
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Default The Athletic - The Brett Kulak miscalculation

A very interesting summer take on the Brett Kulak situation from last summer, and the success he has found in Montreal. Interesting points, since with the Valimaki injury we have become a tad shallower on the back end for next season. It is behind The Athletic paywall though.

The Brett Kulak miscalculation: Flames’ value bet turns out to be bust
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Brad Treliving and the Flames brain trust reacted rather harshly to Kulak’s arbitration request. He was placed on waivers twice prior to the hearing, potentially to demonstrate his lack of value league-wide, and then traded to Montreal in exchange for two sub-replacement players in Matt Taormina and Rinat Valiev. With Noah Hanifin arriving via trade as well as Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington bubbling underneath, Kulak seemed expendable anyways.

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In fact, Kulak rapidly became a fixture with Montreal. The team waived and demoted veteran Karl Alzner to keep Kulak on the active roster. His underlying numbers exploded in his second full season in the league, at the bargain basement price of just $850,000. By the end of the year, he was part of the Canadiens’ top four rotation. The team happily re-signed Kulak to a three-year, $1.85 million per year contract this summer, a deal that is poised to be a huge bargain for them moving forward.


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Which means, the worst case scenario was the Flames had a replacement level 24-year-old defenceman who could sub-in on the third pairing, stick around as a seventh defender, or be demoted to the AHL without any cap implications. They didn’t know what the best case scenario was in this situation because Kulak isn’t a blue chipper. Not knowing his upside made him seem ultimately expendable, but, in fact, they had something almost as powerful — they knew the downside on him was so minimal as to be non-existent.
P.S. Mods, I have quoted a few paragraphs from the article. Let me know if that is acceptable.

Last edited by agulati; 08-13-2019 at 08:39 AM. Reason: Added a link to the article
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:37 AM   #2
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I had mentioned a bunch how the Flames were upset with Kulak and his arb request but instead was met with "they're doing him a solid" and it was "amicable" etc.

The right things were said, but it did not end well. The whole team had a bad year and Kulak demanded a raise.

This wasn't so much a miscalculation (IMO) as it was a bad breakup. Of course with hindsight things would have been handled differently.
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:42 AM   #3
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It was not as bad a miscalculation as basically gifting Paul Byron away, in favor of Brandon Bollig.
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:43 AM   #4
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It’s hard to call it a miscalculation when Kulak didn’t do a whole lot to suggest he was more than a 6/7, and with guys like Andersson, Valimaki, and Kylington all deserving a look, he was the odd man out.

I liked him for what he was, not sad he’s gone, but happy he’s found more success in Montreal.

But who knows... maybe Kulak would have blossomed here too if it weren’t for Gulutzan.
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:45 AM   #5
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It's a chicken or the egg type thing too. Did Kulak raelly blossom into a good defense man or are his stats inflated by playing with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry?
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:02 AM   #6
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He was a victim of the numbers game; Tre saw that he had 2-3 younger guys who looked/look like they have a higher upside behind him, and decided to go with them instead.
To me, he always seemed like a "boring" but steady guy that was probably going to be a 5-6, but who could take some shifts on the 2nd pairing here or there.
Happy to see that he's having success in Montreal, and I hope he has a long career in the NHL.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:20 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by PepsiFree View Post
Itís hard to call it a miscalculation when Kulak didnít do a whole lot to suggest he was more than a 6/7, and with guys like Andersson, Valimaki, and Kylington all deserving a look, he was the odd man out.

I liked him for what he was, not sad heís gone, but happy heís found more success in Montreal.

But who knows... maybe Kulak would have blossomed here too if it werenít for Gulutzan.
Or if it wasn't for Treliving.

Kulak was saddled with Michael Stone who is currently out of the league.

Kulak was one of many players on the roster who saw their underlying numbers improve greatly when not on the ice with Stone.

This is just another blunder from a management group I've grown to not trust.

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Just as we canít necessarily predict every playerís upside in the NHL, a corollary is that we canít necessarily predict the role he will fill either (Mark Giordano IBID). The good news with no downside bets is you donít have to. If Kulak doesnít work out at $850,000 for one year, it doesnít materially impact the team at all. Take a hypothetical situation where they keep the player and Kulak is passed by one or both of Valimaki and Kylington on the depth chart. He spends most of the season in the minors and is cut loose next summer. Thatís the entirety of the downside scenario.

The Flames, however, are a team that gave 15 games to Oscar Fantenberg, 20 games to Dalton Prout, 38 games to Oliver Kylington, 24 games to Valimaki, and 14 games to Michael Stone on the third pairing last year. Valimaki struggled through consistency and injury to start the year, Kylington was tried and then demoted after failing to win the trust of his coach, and the rest of the guys are veteran roster filler. The team traded away a no downside bet in Kulak for nothing (practically speaking, Valiev and Taormina are players you can pluck any time on the open market) and then traded an asset at the deadline for 15 games of Oscar Fantenberg, who fled as a free agent this summer.
Just awful, awful asset management.

No wonder the flames have the worst prospect pool in hockey.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:27 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Flash Walken View Post
Or if it wasn't for Treliving.

No wonder the flames have the worst prospect pool in hockey.
I think the prospect pool statement is nitpicking. We have graduated 5 players over the last year technically. Dube (21), Valimaki (20), Andersson (22), Kylington (22) and Mangiapane (23). These players, though still young and not settled in the NHL, are not being considered as part of the prospect pool.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:30 AM   #9
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Wasn't the guy on waiver that summer, available to all and no one took him?

Happy for his success in Montreal but this sort of thing happens to all teams. Kulak was a "victim" of Calgary's top defensive depth and found a home on a bubble team. His top pairing success with was pretty limited and isn't something anyone should expect long term.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:41 AM   #10
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It's funny to see the reactions on both ends of the spectrum when as usual the reality lies in the middle.

Still have to agree that all things being equal, giving up on Kulak and then trading an asset for Fantenberg and then buying out Stone in a calender year is not the look of a management team that has a solid plan. Not sure what a disgruntled Kulak in the AHL last season means for the youth there, but no doubt Flames are in better shape today on paper if they hold onto Kulak.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:41 AM   #11
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If I made 650k as a hockey player, put my time in the minors, saw myself being waived for the likes of Nik Grossman and Matt Bartkowski, then finally establish myself as a bottom pairing defenceman, I’d ask for a raise as well.

I will say though, the biggest surprise to me was seeing Kulak pass through waivers in the 2018 summer. I was genuinely surprised that Vancouver or Edmonton didn’t take a run at him. Worst case scenario would be you pay Kulak a million or so in his arb case and cut bait the next year.

It might be a minority opinion, but I like seeing these former Flames draft picks do well, even if things didn’t end perfectly in Calgary. Andersson. Valimaki. Fox. Gilmour. Kylington. Kulak. Maybe Hickey. These were all recent Flames D draft picks that will play NHL minutes next year, and in some cases, impactful NHL minutes.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:59 AM   #12
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The “did Kulak a favor” narrative is total BS. There was a spot for him, he was sent away because he didn’t play ball and took the team to arbitration. If there was no room for him they wouldn’t have traded for Fantenberg later, or qualified Kulak in the first place. The relationship soured over about 100k for what is looking like a home grown top 4 defenseman (seriously, he performed as a top 4 when given the opportunity in Montreal).

He was actually lower on the depth chart to start the year in Mtl (in the minors) than he would have been in Calgary.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:09 AM   #13
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Meh- I don't think Kulak will amount to anything more than a bottom pair defender that can fill in top 4 for very short periods. I would be willing to bet he will spend most of the year on the bottom pairing for the habs.

This is just an issue again because of Valimaki's freak injury, but I am confident we will forget all about Kulak again while watching Kylington blossom this year.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:12 AM   #14
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Quote:
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The ďdid Kulak a favorĒ narrative is total BS. There was a spot for him, he was sent away because he didnít play ball and took the team to arbitration. If there was no room for him they wouldnít have traded for Fantenberg later, or qualified Kulak in the first place. The relationship soured over about 100k for what is looking like a home grown top 4 defenseman (seriously, he performed as a top 4 when given the opportunity in Montreal).

He was actually lower on the depth chart to start the year in Mtl (in the minors) than he would have been in Calgary.
The trade for Fantenburg was a depth move ahead of a playoff run. And with Stone and Valimaki both out, it made sense.

At the time of the Kulak trade, both of those guys were healthy, and with the three kids coming, he had a legitimate chance to be pushed right out of the line-up.

Bluntly, he was never going to be a top 4 in Calgary.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:18 AM   #15
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Kulak is/was a very serviceable third pairing D. Maybe second pairing potential. But the reality is that we already had Valimaki and Andersson both knocking on the door, both with better upside.

So the only argument is that Kulak should have netted a better return, but if he was put on waivers with no interest, it tells you what the demand was for him.

We likely would not have traded for Fantenberg if Valimaki and Stone were both healthy. That said, when you finish second in the league, it's a small price to pay for depth in anticipation of a long playoff run...

EDIT: Yeah, basically what Resolute posted ^^^
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:21 AM   #16
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Kulak wasn’t anywhere near top 4, and was in the way of the 3 young defencemen who do have too 4 potential.

The calculation was likelihood of being lost for nothing on waivers v what could be acquired in trade.

The flames might still have gotten it wrong in hindsight, but I doubt it’s because they lack the thought clarity of esteemed bloggers.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:36 AM   #17
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It's actually a pretty good article if you're able to read it. It's not so much about Kulak - it just uses him as an example that fits.

The article basically goes on about how outside of your top players and easy to identify blue chippers that you need to try to fill out the roster with players with potential upside, but little downside if they don't work out.

In this instance he goes on about how Kulak had almost none of the downside - cheap, easy to move on from if he doesn't work out - yet had enough positives (development curve, youth, cheap) that if he did work out it results in a win. Giordano is also referenced as this type of example, although he'd be at the extreme end of this sort of thing as I don't think many expect an undrafted guy to win the Norris one day.

I suppose that's why the GM is paid the big money though, it's up to them to make the bets on the right guy. Easy to say we should have kept him in hindsight. I liked Kulak, but I didn't pay much attention to him, certainly not enough that trading him away bothered me any. It seemed like a good way for him to get an opportunity, although maybe he would have gotten it here instead of us giving guys like Prout and Fantenberg games.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:44 AM   #18
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Just awful, awful asset management.

No wonder the flames have the worst prospect pool in hockey.
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Old 08-13-2019, 11:10 AM   #19
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I think this is pretty ridiculous to call it a miscalculation. Kulak would have been waiver fodder if we was in the Flames camp. He got bumped down the depth chart by Kylington, Valimaki, and Andersson. Would he have any value as a 7th?
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Old 08-13-2019, 11:11 AM   #20
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The Flames organization wasnt happy with Kulak, for one reason or another, and I dont think it started with arbitration.

He was getting very limited looks and limited ice time, which I don't think reflected his on-ice performance.

I wasn't surprised when he elected for arbitration. I'm sure he felt he should be an NHL regular, and the Flames weren't treating or paying him as such.

Turns out he was right.

But I don't think it moved the needle much for the Flames either way.

Yes, it would be nice to have him as an asset, or speculate how it might have affected other contracts.

But the fact is that if he were on the Flames, Kulak would be going into Flames training camp this year battling for a bottom pairing spot. And even with Valimaki injured, Kulak would need to bump one of Kylington or Andersson to get on the ice.
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