The trade deadline has come and gone and Ken Holland made a pair of moves to shore up the Edmonton Oilers’ depth.
First, he sent William Lagesson and a second-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for underrated defender Brett Kulak. A little while later, he moved a fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for veteran pivot Derick Brassard.
While these aren’t game-changing additions, the Oilers are a better team now than they were yesterday. Let’s take a look at these two new players and where they fit in the team’s lineup.
Where does Brett Kulak fit?
Kulak was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and got his feet wet in the NHL there but he didn’t break out as a full-time NHLer until he was dealt to the Habs right before the 2018-19 season. In four seasons with Montreal, Kulak developed into a quality bottom-pairing defenseman, logging an average of 17:19 per game.
As Jack Han notes above, Kulak isn’t huge, imposing, or very physical, but he’s a very good skater who plays a responsible defensive game. Kulak is at his best when he’s paired with more of an offensively-oriented partner, which was the case in Montreal as he spent 537:21 at even-strength with Jeff Petry over the past two seasons.
Edmonton has two different defenders who fit the profile as the offence-first partner for Kulak to play with: Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie. With his speed and ability to defend the rush effectively, Kulak would be a fine complement to either of those two players, as his style would open up more room for them to take risks offensively.
Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci have been effective as a pairing and Duncan Keith is a good veteran partner for Bouchard, so a third pairing of Kulak and Barrie is likely the move here.
Where does Derick Brassard fit?
Derick Brassard is a streaky player who’s been known to get hot at the right time, ultimately earning him the nickname Big Game Brass.
The No. 6 overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets has played for nine different teams over his 15-year NHL career and he’s been a part of a few deep playoff runs. He scored six goals, two of which were game-winners, when the New York Rangers went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, and he scored four for the Ottawa Senators in their playoff run in 2017.
At the age of 34, Brassard isn’t the same top-six threat that he used to be, but he’s a defensively responsible pivot who boasts the skill to score goals and the hope is that he can go on a heater and provide Edmonton some depth offence. Brassard is also effective on the dot, as he’s won 53.1 percent of the faceoffs he’s taken in the past three seasons.
Through 31 games with the Flyers this season, Brassard has six goals and 16 points while playing 14:22 per night.
While Brassard spent time in Philly’s top-six with players like Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee, he’s best served to play in a depth role on a good team. With the Oilers, the play would be to use him as the fourth-line centre, which would free Ryan McLeod to play higher in the lineup, either as the third-line centre or on the wing in the top-six.