Edmonton Oilers add depth on blueline, acquire Brett Kulak from Habs for William Lagesson, two draft picks

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Breaking news on Trade Deadline Monday that the Edmonton Oilers have acquired experienced left-shot defender Brett Kulak from Montreal Canadiens.

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Still awaiting confirmation that the trade has in fact happened, even as speculation runs rampant. Several hours after the original report there has been nothing official from the Oilers. Word is the acquisition cost will be a conditional second-round pick as well as defenseman William Lagessonwhile the deal likely includes a 50% salary retention by the Habs.

UPDATED 4pm:

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The trade is finally confirmed, with new information that the Oilers have added a seventh round pick in 2024 to the package.

The Oilers have already committed their second-round pick in 2022 to Chicago in the Duncan Keith trade in the unlikely happenstance that the Oilers win the Western Conference final; if not, it’s a third-rounder. That same condition will be applied to the Kulak trade, moving it to 2023 if Chicago gets priority on the 2022 second-rounder.

Here’s the latest from hockey insider Bob McKenzie of TSN:

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Montreal will retain 50% of Kulak’s $1.85 million cap hit, originally a three-year contract that expires at season’s end.

Kulak, 28, checks a few boxes. He is a 6-year NHL veteran with 316 games of experience plus 23 more in the playoffs. He has played 56 games for the Habs in 2021-22 with boxcars of 3-10-13, -10 in 18 minutes a night, primarily at even strength.

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Kulak has posted decent underlying numbers on the struggling Habs, with on-ice shot shares just north of 50% and expected goals just south of that mark.

PuckIQ.com arrives at a similar conclusion with their keynote stat, Danger Fenwick, which checks in at 49.3%, the best among Montreal’s main five on the back end. Kulak ranked tied for fourth with Alexander Romanuk in even-strength ice time at 16:58 per game, with both players playing some 26% of their 5v5 time against Elite competition, also a virtual T-4. So let’s call Kulak a 4/5, bearing in mind that Montreal’s blueline corps has been diminished this season by the absence of vets Shea Weber and Joel Edmundson due to major injuries.

Kulak’s most common defense partner in Montreal was top-four stalwart Jeff Petry, with whom he spent some 44% of his even strength ice time as per Natural Stat Trick.

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According to TSN’s Ray Ferraro: “I like Kulak. He moves the puck, he can skate, he can play both sides of the ice. He doesn’t have to try to be in your top four, he can be in your third pair.”

Ryan Whitney of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast adds: “Love this trade. Solid D man that just adds more to the team with the longest current winning streak in the NHL.”

…while TSN’s Ryan Rishaug speculates on his role within the Oilers: “Kulak immediately steps in as 3rd pair left shot guy and could push for more. Veteran presence, can insulate Bouchard a bit as well if they end up together. Local product.

That’s “local product” with connections to Edmonton, Stony Plain and St. Albert. The 6’1, 196-pound rearguard was selected by Calgary Flames in the fourth round on the 2012 NHL Draft, and played his first 101 NHL games with the Flames before being traded to Montreal in 2018. Now he’s been moved to another Canadian market in 2022. This background is significant to the extent that it increases the possibility that Kulak will sign an extension with his hometown team this summer.

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In Lagesson the Oilers have finally moved on from a long-term prospect initially acquired in the fourth round way back in 2014. He has spent the intervening years in five different developmental leagues, earning various looks in the NHL totaling 57 games over the past three years. He cleared waivers on two occasions earlier this season. His departure opens up a roster spot for the newcomer, but not a lot of cap space given Lagesson’s cap hit was actually $25k below NHL minimum.

Kulak certainly falls within the Ken Holland trade template of acquiring a veteran d-man at the deadline, even as he is a relatively young one. While he is an upgrade over Lagesson, a second round pick is a dear price to pay.

Three years into the Holland regime, his club has traded eight Day Two draft picks in deadline deals:

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  • Second round picks in 2020 & 2021 (plus Sam Gagner) for Andreas Athanasiou
  • Fourth round pick in 2020 for Mike Green
  • Fifth round pick in 2021 for Tyler Ennis
  • Fourth round pick in 2022 for Dmitri Kulikov
  • Now a 2022 or 2023 second rounder and 2024 seventh rounder (plus Lagesson) for Brett Kulak
  • and a 2023 fourth rounder for Derick Brassarddetailed here

That list doesn’t include the 2021 third that was ceded in the Milan Lucic-for-James Neal swap, nor the 2022 third/conditional second dealt in the Duncan Keith trade.

Still waiting for the club to get ahead of the curve to the point that they develop their own depth options internally, but that’s harder to do when they continuously trading away draft picks in the top 100. It doesn’t help that they are constantly dealing from a deficit position of having to deal picks more than a year into the future (as happened in four of the above trades), which has the effect of diminishing their value.

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Last word to my Cult of Hockey colleagues. Yesterday in his weekly column 9 Things, Kurt Leavins identified Kulak as a possible trade target: “And then there is Brett Kulak in Montreal at $1.8m. The Oilers like Kulak. But I think the Habs like him too and may not be willing to divest themselves of Kulak unless the price is just right.”

…while David Staples concluded his trade deadline post this morning with: “I’d prefer Edmonton Oilers do nothing than trade a second round pick for a third pairing d-man. You?”

Good question. The comments section is open for your input.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: NHL insider excpects Oilers to be aggressive at deadline

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LEAVINS: Oilers’ most likely targets at the deadline: 9 Things

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