At this point, defenseman Ben Chiarot is more valuable to the Montreal Canadiens as trade bait. That’s more so a reflection of the Habs’ disappointing season overall than Chiarot’s specifically. In fact, all things taken into consideration, Chiarot’s had a pretty good one up to now, at least relatively speaking.
Ultimately, it’s been a bounce-back campaign for Chiarot, after having been limited to just 41 games in 2020-21 due to a broken hand. After scoring a career-high nine goals and 21 points in his debut 2019-20 season with the Canadiens, he notched just one marker and six assists the following season. While his five points so far constitute a fairly modest amount, he ranks second on the team for scoring among defenseman and first in goals, with his four placing him in the top 10 in the league. For all intents and purposes he’s been killing it. Credit where it’s due.
Trading Chiarot the Right Move for Canadiens
On the verge of hitting 100 career points in 430+ games played, Chiarot will never be mistaken for an offensive dynamo. Sure, he’s contributed at the opposite end of the rink, but his strength has generally been playing defense through and through, which he’s done pretty well so far this season.
Couple his performance this season with his heroics last playoffs, when he led the Canadiens in ice time, it’s becoming increasingly apparent the Habs can land a decent haul on the trade market. There’s no real reason why they shouldn’t test it either.
Chiarot’s already 30 and is going to be an unrestricted free agent. Any subsequent deal would push the envelope on any respectably estimated limit of his prime. Cash in now by trading Chiarot or risk being saddled with yet another less-than-fleet-of-foot defenseman for longer than you have to, with the Canadiens already having Joel Edmundson and David Savard to fill that role.
It’s a shame to have to say based on his impressive career, but the Canadiens also dodged somewhat of a bullet, being able to place Shea Weber on long-term injured reserve. Of course, a healthy Weber would probably be beneficial to the Habs right now from a leadership standpoint, but ultimately, even completely healthy, the Habs would have trouble making the playoffs, ironically based primarily on the construction of the team’s defense.
Savard Deal a Highlight of Trade Deadlines Past
However, if you’re already en route to the playoffs, it wouldn’t necessarily hurt to add another defenseman of Chiarot’s ilk, at the very least as an insurance policy. Considering Chiarot’s impact last playoffs, it would be hard to turn down the opportunity to acquire him. Defensemen obviously changes teams every year. Their prices vary though.
For example, last trade deadline, Jordie Benn went from the Vancouver Canucks to the Winnipeg Jets for a sixth-round pick. The Boston Bruins meanwhile got ex-Hab Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators for a third-round pick, which translates to the approximate median price tag for a depth defenseman. As Habs fans will probably remember, the Tampa Bay Lightning gave up first, third, and fourth-round picks for current-Hab Savard (and technically Brian Lashoff), but that is by no means the norm.
Going back a year further, in 2020 Brady Skjei did net the New York Rangers a first-round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes. Alec Martinez meanwhile fetched the Los Angeles Kings two second-round picks (via the Vegas Golden Knights). However, we’re talking about two offensive-minded defenseman, the former being a then-by-all-appearances in-his prime No. 28 overall pick in 2012. Neither description really fits Chiarot.
Amazingly one of the highest returns for a defenseman went to the Canadiens when they traded Marco Scandella to the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick and a conditional fourth rounder. Scandella had actually been acquired by the Canadiens just a few months beforehand from the Buffalo Sabres for just a fourth-round pick, hinting at how the event can trigger unexpected inflation. So, there is hope for the Habs.
There’s more, in the sense that Scandella has more in common with Chiarot than either Skjei or Martinez. In fact, all things considered, based on the nature of the role Chiarot has played with the Canadiens this season (a second-ranked 23:02 per game, compared to Scandella’s 17:38 in 2020), he’s indisputably more valuable, and teams looking for a rugged, defensive defenseman who can chip in the odd point would likely agree. However there are no guarantees.
Hope for a First, but Expect a Third for Chiarot
It depends on the market, which, forget the trade deadline, has yet to fully take shape this season in a flat-cap world. Although, Christian Dvorak getting the Arizona Coyotes first and second-round picks this past offseason is most certainly a good sign. It just depends on whether the teams with whom the Canadiens end up dealing are as desperate as they were to replace Jesperi Kotkaniemi/ Phillip Danault down the middle.
Again though, you’re probably looking at the third-round pick the Chicago Blackhawks got from the Calgary Flames for Nikita Zadorov last summer as a conservative estimate. Similarly, the Winnipeg Jets got Nate Schmidt from the Vancouver Canucks for the same price.
Anything higher and general manager Marc Bergevin will have done a good job, here. However, anything less, including an ill-advised decision to hold onto Chiarot will end up a clear-cut missed opportunity. After reaching the Stanley Cup Final last playoffs, the Habs and their fans have certainly gotten enough of that vibe this season.
Expectations heading in were of course lowered heading in to the point that it made sense to deal Chiarot as early as possible to capitalize on his strong showing last postseason. He’s pleasantly surprised in that respect, but not enough that the Habs should delude themselves into thinking he’s going to help them win. He’s not. He’s not Superman. Let him help someone else, regardless of what’s coming back. It could be a first, but ultimately just get whatever you can for him and move on. Only then will you be able to come to terms with the need to move on from this roster as a whole. Holding onto the past does no one any good in this scenario. Ditto for holding onto Chiarot.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has also written for the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to have covered the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.