While many were hoping to see a big move, it became increasingly clear in recent weeks that the trade deadline would be a quiet one for the Edmonton Oilers. It is unfortunate given that their division feels very up for grabs this year due to the struggles of the Vegas Golden Knights, but they simply did not have much cap room to work with. With that being said, there were reports that they were looking for a bottom pair defenceman, and they got that on deadline day.
As first reported by Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, the Oilers have acquired Brett Kulak from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for William Lagesson and a second-round. While it may feel underwhelming given some of the moves we have seen in recent days, it is still a solid pickup for the remainder of the season, though the second-round pick is pricier than most were expecting. With that being said, the 28-year-old will be a solid addition to a blueline that has been inconsistent at times this season.
Kulak Does Many Little Things Well
By no means is Kulak, who has played in 316 career games, a household name in the NHL. Up until the 2019-20 season, he was up and down on occasion from the American Hockey League (AHL) and has played north of 60 NHL games in a season just once.
Despite not being a big name, however, he has improved tremendously over the past two seasons and turned into a solid defenceman with the Montreal Canadiens. While he will never be an offensive threat at the NHL level, he has great underlying numbers, particularly when it comes to defensive zone play.
Solid Third Pairing Defenceman
As to where he will slot in on this Oilers team, that remains to be seen. Under both head coach Jay Woodcroft and former head coach Dave Tippett, they have used several players on the left side of their third pairing, including prospects Philip Broberg and Marcus Niemelainen. With both of those players currently in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors, Kris Russell has once again been used in that role as of late.
While Russell’s shot blocking abilities can be beneficial, it is clear that at the age of 34 he has lost a step. Heis be st suited as a seventh defenceman at this stage of his career. It seems likely that, for at least the time being, Woodcroft puts Kulak in his spot, which would likely pair him up with Tyson Barrie, an offensive defenceman who could really benefit from a steady defensive presence on his left side.
Lagesson Gets Fresh Start
Earlier this season, Lagesson’s agent in Allan Walsh blasted Dave Tippett for his deployment of the 26-year-old. It seemed clear to most after that happened that the Swedish defenceman would likely welcome a trade, and that day has now come.
Lagesson was never able to carve out a full-time role on the Oilers’ blue line, coming in and out of the lineup for each of the past two seasons. He plays a very non flashy but responsible game, and has shown some flashes that he has what it takes to develop into an every day NHLer. That wasn’t going to happen in Edmonton however, as they have a number of younger, more promising defenceman in the system who surpassed him on the depth chart. For that reason, adding him to this trade shouldn’t be considered a negative, as the player they have coming in return is the better of the two.
Quiet Deadline Day for the Oilers
While the deadline hasn’t come to an end just yet, this could very well by the only deal we see from the Oilers. As mentioned above, they have very little cap space remaining, meaning if they do make any additional deals they will likely be depth ones. Much like last year, general manager Ken Holland will be hoping his team is good enough on its own to make a run in the postseason. Whether or not they are remains to be seen, but the addition of Kulak certainly won’t hurt.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.