Oilers Should Not Overpay for Canadiens Defenceman Ben Chiarot

As the Montreal Canadiens continue to lose, it is more and more likely that defenceman Ben Chiarot will be dealt to a contender before the 2022 trade deadline. However, the list of teams in the bidding war may up the price, and he could “absolutely fetch a first-round pick,” said Pierre LeBrun on TSN’s Insider Trading. The Edmonton Oilers should not be one of those teams if the price for Chiarot means giving up a first-round pick.

A few teams are high on Chiarot, and he should be at the top of the list of rental defencemen available this season. The one possible roadblock is that he has a 10-team no-trade clause that he submitted in the summer. This shouldn’t get in the way of too many interested parties but could shift the board on which contender acquires him.

Ben Chiarot Montreal Canadiens
Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Chiarot played great in last year’s playoffs when the Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Final, and his cap hit of $3.5 million is appealing, since most teams could fit that under the cap pretty easily. We will have to see how high the asking price goes and who is willing to pay that for a rental. As of now, it’s being speculated that the price to acquire him is between a second and a first-round pick.

A Healthy Oilers Defence Core Looks Strong

A big concern heading into the season was whether the Oilers‘ defence was strong enough to compete during the regular season, not to mention playoffs. So far, there have been lapses or mistakes – like any young player would make – but in general, the team is around the middle of the pack in goals against, and that’s with all the injuries they’ve sustained and have been battling through successfully.

The Oilers’ deadly offence makes up for average defence and goaltending. Yes, the offence may dry up for a game or two and won’t be able to cover a below-average game defensively, but no team is perfect in every game throughout a season. There are ups and downs, and they will generally have to overcome adversity.

Related: Oilers’ Mikko Koskinen Is NHL’s Most Underappreciated Goaltender

Four defenceman from theroster are out right now, but when healthy, they have a solid corp. With the emergence of Philip Broberg and the surprising play and ability to step up that Kris Russell has shown, do the Oilers really need to pay a hefty price for an upgrade when they may have already solved their defensive problems internally? In the past two games, both defencemen have led the Oilers in ice time, Broberg vs the Vegas Golden Knights, and Russell vs the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both were winning efforts and both had to play against the opposition’s top lines.

A healthy Oilers defence looks something like this:

Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie

Duncan Keith – Cody Ceci

Russell/Broberg/Slater Koekkoek – Evan Bouchard

Given how well Russell has been playing, Koekkoek may be the odd man out when everyone returns. Broberg is also an option, seeing as he is waiver exempt. Bringing in a player like Chiarot to fill a spot on the left side may look good on paper, but is the upgrade worth giving up a first-round pick? While Chiarot may be bigger and a little more physical, Russell is the all-time leader in blocked shots, a very underrated talent on a team that gives up a lot of shot attempts.

Kris Russell Oilers
Kris Russell, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The NHL regulars shouldn’t be out much longer, and the Oilers will then get to see a more stable defensive unit. Nurse could return in time for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, and Ceci should be back after the COVID protocol situation is resolved.

Oilers Shouldn’t Give Up 1st Round Pick for Rental

The last time the Oilers paid a good price for a rental, it didn’t work out. They traded a second-round pick from the deep 2020 NHL draft for Andreas Athanasiou who did next to nothing. They didn’t even attempt to re-sign him even though he was a restricted free agent.

Most of the time, rentals don’t work out. Players have little time to adjust and get to know new players and a new system. For a player like Chiarot, a second-round pick would be worth it because he’s expected to put up goals and points. He’s big and defends hard. But if the asking price is higher than that, the Oilers would be wise to keep their first-round pick and use it more wisely.

All of Edmonton’s first-round picks from 2013 and on are in the organization, and all but the last two selections are on the NHL roster. The organization has done very well drafting in the first round and helping the team stay competitive. In another strong draft, do they really want to risk losing that for a slight upgrade?

The Oilers are good right now, and even though a team could always do with an upgrade, management shouldn’t overpay for anyone and risk packaging their future away on a chance. In the long run, their first-overall pick in 2022 will be more valuable than a rental player like Chiarot, who will last a couple of months at best.

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