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Why it makes sense for the Oilers to trade Brett Kulak

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers are, without a doubt, in win-now mode. Make no mistake about it. I fully expect them to go all-in at this year’s trade deadline.
At the same time, with their limited cap space and limited assets, it’s going to be very tough for them to do so.
At the beginning of the season, I thought that if they were going to go out and upgrade their forward group, Warren Foegele would be the easy cap dump. Now? With Foegele’s play and Connor Brown not looking like a reliable top-nine winger, I don’t think they can move Foegele.
I also thought that if they were going to upgrade their blueline, they would need to sacrifice Cody Ceci and while that still may end up happening, I don’t see it as likely. Next on their list of potential cap dumps might actually be Brett Kulak. 
I love what Kulak brings to the table. He’s a reliable third-pairing defenseman who rarely makes mistakes in his own end. I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Kulak because he’s a local product, and I love that storyline, but I think we might be getting to a point where having Kulak and his $2.75m cap hit on the third pairing is just not a luxury that the Oilers can afford.
If they want to go out and find a new third-line centre, add a top-six winger to play alongside Leon Draisaitl, and add a layer of depth to their blueline, then they’ll need to move out some salary.
Kulak may be the easiest piece to stomach moving simply because of how well Philip Broberg has looked since going back down to Bakersfield. By all accounts, he’s playing the best hockey of his career, and when I spoke with our very own Bruce Curlock about this earlier in the week, he said that he believes Broberg will slide right into the lineup and give the Oilers the same quality of minutes that Kulak is.
Of course, there is a massive risk that comes with a move like this.
The Oilers have been very fortunate when it comes to injuries over the last couple of seasons. Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard, Mattias Ekholm, and Cody Ceci have all been playing top-four minutes for the better part of a calendar year and none of them have had to miss an extended period of time.
The Oilers are one injury away from Kulak having to be a top-four guy for them like he was before they acquired Ekholm, and if you trade him and then someone goes down with an injury, the blueline will look incredibly thin.
The Oilers, quite frankly, need to add more depth on the back end, not sacrifice what they have.
So yes, trading Kulak would make me very nervous, but if you were to move away from him and his $2.75m cap hit and bring up Broberg to play on the third pairing with Desharnais, you could probably use those savings to find another serviceable third-pairing defenseman and still have money left over.
Kulak would have value as well. This wouldn’t be a situation where the Oilers are just giving him away for nothing. I’m sure a team that’s in the playoff hunt and has a little bit of wiggle room with the cap would be willing to give up a third-round pick for him. (I’m looking at you Toronto).
You could then take that pick and use it for a more cost-effective depth player.
The savings of around $1.8 million that you get from going from Kulak to Broberg could let them add a piece like Sean Monahan (at 50% retained) and a depth defenseman like Nick Seeler, who makes right around league minimum. 
Note: Frank Seravalli said on Oilersnation Everyday that it sounds like the Flyers want to keep Seeler around, so while he may not be a target specifically, the Oilers should be on the hunt for a similar player with a similar cap hit.
If you get some players on retained money, there’s a chance that you could take the cap savings from that move and add potentially three other players with the savings. That’s significant.
So yes, there is a downside to trading a player like Brett Kulak and on a personal level, I would hate to see him go, but this is a business, and there is a very logical case to be made for moving on from him and using the savings to upgrade other spots on the team.

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