Is Brett Kulak on his way out the door?

Dec 13, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brett Kulak (27) skates against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brett Kulak (27) skates against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports /
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Could the Edmonton Oilers bring in Jake McCabe?
Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports /

Jake McCabe

McCabe is currently playing the top pairing alongside Seth Jones for the rebuilding Hawks. Unlike other names on this list, you’ll get about the same amount of offence you’d get with Kulak if you acquired McCabe. He’s a veteran of 467 NHL games and is currently sporting 2-9-11 in 39 games with 19 PIMs and a +3. Those stats are almost identical to Kulak’s 2-8-10 in 40 games with 16 PIMs and an identical +3.

McCabe is carrying a $4 million cap hit for two more seasons after this one, so he’s more expensive than Kulak is right now. He can also play either side just like Kulak. He has a modified NTC in his contract where he presents a seven-team no-trade list to the Hawks, but somehow I doubt the Oilers are on it. After all, they’re clearly a playoff team on the upswing right now, and what player wouldn’t want to come to that?

The great thing about the Hawks is they have cap space to spare, so if we trade them Kulak plus JP which equals $5.75 million in cap space but subtract McCabe’s $4 million and they’d be taking on only $1.75 million for two players – one who could easily replace McCabe and the other one could be useful to them in a fresh start sense – even if JP doesn’t work out in Chicago they just let him walk at the end of the season, no problem.

This saves the Edmonton Oilers cap space and they get rid of JP, so financially this deal makes a lot of sense.

However, the downside to McCabe is he’s played his entire career on bad teams in Buffalo and Chicago, and as a result, has no playoff experience. Kulak has 39 games of playoff experience between Montreal and Edmonton, making McCabe a riskier trade. I’d hesitate to move our first-rounder in a McCabe trade.

Joel Edmundson

Edmundson is playing the left side on the second pairing for Montreal right now. We got a pretty good asset back in Kulak last trade deadline, could the Edmonton Oilers go back to Montreal well again this trade deadline?

Edmundson is only producing 1-5-6 in 35 games for the Habs, so although there is less offence produced in Edmundson as opposed to Kulak’s game, it’s only off by four points and it’s worth noting Edmundson has played in five fewer games than Kulak to this point. He’s also a veteran of 451 NHL games.

Also, the fact that Edmundson currently sports a -17 on the season is a bit of a concern, although it’s worth noting he’s never finished below -10 prior to this season, and in fact had a +28 only two seasons ago. We can probably chalk up Edmundson’s -17 this season to three things – 1) He’s playing on a rebuilding team 2) The Habs are experiencing huge injury problems at both forward and in goal which naturally will result in a harder time for the blueliners 3) The Habs sport a bottom five worst -43 goal differential and a GA mark of 163, fifth worst in the league, so it’s not just Edmundson but the Habs as a whole doing badly defensively this season.

I’m willing to bet the Habs would jump at the chance to get JP as well, there would be ample opportunity for him in their top six, something the Edmonton Oilers can’t – and won’t – provide him at this point in time. If JP doesn’t show some scoring talent on a team like Montreal, maybe he’s right about himself and doesn’t belong in the league.

Even if JP continues to falter, they just let him walk at the end of the season – no harm, no foul.

Also, unlike McCabe Edmundson has 75 games of playoff experience between St. Louis, Carolina, and Montreal – including winning the cup in 2019 with the Blues and going to the finals in 2021 with the Habs. Gotta like that for the Edmonton Oilers cup hopes.

Like Kulak, Edmundson also plays both sides.

Edmundson also has a modified NTC with a 10-team list of places he won’t go but again I doubt the Edmonton Oilers are on it – if he can survive in even hockey-madder Montreal surely he can survive here.

Would Montreal take Kulak back as the centrepiece of the trade? They just might. It’s also worth noting Edmundson comes cheaper than McCabe, at $3.5 million for this season and next.

Because Carey Price’s contract is on LTIR forever now, the Habs also have ample LTIR cap space to take on $5.75 million in cap space between JP and Kulak. Subtract Edmundson from that equation and that’s only $2.25 million of cap space to take on, and they’ll automatically get rid of $3 million after this season if they want. I’d feel more comfortable moving our first this year for Edmundson than McCabe.

Vladislav Gavrikov

And now we come to the cheapest and shortest term of the players, Vladislav Gavrikov. He’s currently playing on the top pairing for a bad team.

The Russian left D is signed only until the end of this season for $2.8 million. Rumour has it he’s looking for a raise as well, but I can’t see Gavrikov at any more than $4 million. Still, we all know the Edmonton Oilers are up against the cap so they’d have to find the cap space to re-sign him if they choose to do so.

Gavrikov is putting up more or less Kulak numbers – 3-7-10 in 43 games with a -1 and 26 PIMs in 43 games – although it’s worth noting he put up 33 points just two seasons ago, so he has the most offensive upside of the three. Gavrokov is the least experienced of all the players mentioned, only playing 247 NHL games. He’s also managed to get in 12 playoff games with the BlueJackets, having played his entire career in Columbus so far.

Put JP in this trade as well and like in Montreal he’ll have a great opportunity in Columbus’s top six as they’re currently missing four regular forwards due to injury.

However, Columbus is the only team who’s hurting for cap space as much as the Edmonton Oilers are – they’re at $84 million so they’re almost $2 million over. That being said, like every other team that’s over they’re currently operating on LTIR for that amount. They’ll have to get more creative to fit in JP’s salary than Montreal or Chicago would, but they could do it. Even if they were to make the trade tomorrow they’d have to pay no more than $1.353 of JP’s cap hit pro-rated for the remainder of this season. If they do the trade at the deadline that falls to $600,000. Either way, they could fit it in but it would be tight when their guys start coming back from injury. Even subtracting Gavrikov’s $2.8 million means Columbus has to take on a bit of cap space.

I would balk at sending Columbus a first-round pick for Gavrikov but would be OK with a second-round pick.

Also, Columbus would probably be less willing to take on JP than Chicago or Montreal, so that might be a non-starter. Remember in 2016 they were projected to draft him but ended up drafting Pierre-Luc Dubois instead, and the GM of the day Peter Chiarelli then drafted JP with the next pick. Jarmo Kekalainen is still the GM there.

Would I do a draft pick plus Kulak for Gavrikov on their own? Maybe, but the trade becomes less attractive to me if they don’t take JP as well.

Now let’s look at the reasons why we might want to keep Kulak.