Rangers’ 3 Trade Targets on the Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are a franchise that is looking to shed salary at the trade deadline and during the offseason. The 2020-21 Stanley Cup Final runner-up has struggled mightily in 2021-22 with the lowest point total (22) in the league through 39 games. The Habs have a record of 8-25-6 and are in the running for the first-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

Two key pieces for the franchise’s success last year have been inactive this season. Shea Weber’s playing career is in doubt as he is recovering from several injuries. Carey Price entered the NHL/NHLPA players assistance program in October and has been rehabbing from a knee injury. He may not be back until 2022-23 as there is no timetable for his return.

The team lost Corey Perry, Tomas Tatar, Philip Danault in free agency last offseason. The Canadiens had too many changes on the roster to overcome in one season after making the Cup Final. Having injuries to other key players, roster members missing games due to COVID protocol, and front office changes are other explanations for the franchise’s misfortune this year.

Former New York Rangers general manager, Jeff Gorton, was hired as executive vice president of hockey operations (VPHO) for the Canadiens on Nov. 28. The Habs fired general manager Marc Bergevin, assistant general manager Trevor Timmins, and senior vice president Paul Wilson. Scott Mellanby resigned as the assistant general manager also.

The Rangers could benefit from some of the players on the Habs who could be available to acquire via trade by the March deadline. The latter have some players that would be good fits for the former as they make a push to qualify for the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here are three players Rangers president/general manager (GM) Chris Drury could target from the Canadiens by the trade deadline.

Ben Chiarot

The 30-year-old Ben Chiarot would represent a defenseman that head coach Gerard Gallant could utilize on the left side of the defense. The Rangers’ strength at the position is on the right side with Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba. K’Andre Miller is not having as good of a year as his rookie season and has struggled defensively at times. An example is when the team had a few bad games in Western Canada in November and the combination of Miller and Trouba was frequently on the ice when the opposition scored.

Miller is only 21 and was one of the unexpected players to make the roster at the end of training camp in 2020-21. He, Fox, and Ryan Lindgren are still young defensemen despite their talent. Drury may look to acquire players a few years older who can complement the youth at the position.

Gallant has mixed and matched different combinations on the third defensive pairing throughout the year. Patrik Nemeth, Nils Lundkvist, Zac Jones, Braden Schneider, and Jarred Tinordi have been put together throughout the first half of the season. It remains to be seen if any one of these defensemen can remain paired with Nemeth as he looks to be one of the options the Rangers’ head coach prefers to play.

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

Chiarot is in his ninth season in the NHL and his third with the Canadiens. He is not known for putting up offensive numbers and would be relied upon for his ability to be a shutdown defenseman given that he is 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds. Before he signed with the Canadiens as a free agent after the 2018-19 season, he was a member of the Winnipeg Jets with current Rangers defenseman Trouba for five seasons.

Related: Rangers News & Rumors: COVID Pause, Chiarot, WJC & More

He averages around 18 minutes of ice time in over 631 total minutes in 2021-22. His averaged minutes could give some rest to players like Fox and Trouba. Chiarot’s contract expires at the end of the season and he will be a free agent. He is a player that would not take much for Drury to acquire given his status as an unrestricted free agent (UFA).

In a piece for Daily Faceoff, Frank Seravalli wrote that Chiarot is one of the players that could be moved at the deadline and that the Rangers are a suitor for the defenseman. He is a player whom general managers of playoff teams view as a depth acquisition for the defense. The Blueshirts could be a candidate especially if they have any injuries at the position around the time of the deadline on March 21.

Tyler Toffoli

It remains to be seen how many of the Canadiens will remain a part of the team after this season when factoring in the team’s poor record and the changes in the front office. The 29-year-old Scarborough, Toronto, Canada native is one of the roster members who may remain with the team beyond 2021-22 or be traded. If Drury puts together an offer for Tyler Toffoli that would benefit the future of the team, Habs general manager Kent Hughes could be interested in accepting the offer.

Kevin Weekes, an analyst for ESPN, believes the Rangers could be seeking a forward to put on either of the top two lines, “One could make this case that they could try to get another top-six winger. Could they want somebody like a Tyler Toffoli maybe, from Montreal?” (from ‘Rangers’ standing as serious Stanley Cup contender comes with a caveat,’ New York Post, 1/4/22) Toffoli would give the Rangers a player with previous Stanley Cup championship-winning experience as he was a member of the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings franchise.

Toffoli would give the Rangers another playmaker to put with the top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad or on the second line consisting of Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. The Canadiens forward has six goals and 13 assists in 27 games played during the 2021-22 season. He came close to setting a new career-high total in goals last season as he finished with 28. He had 31 goals in the 2015-16 season with the Kings.

Tyler Toffoli Montreal Canadiens
Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He is earning $4.25 million in 2021-22 and will earn the same average annual value (AAV) next season and in 2023-24 before becoming a UFA. The Canadiens are looking to create cap space by moving on from some players at the deadline and in the offseason. Depending upon how the front office prefers to approach the situation, Toffoli could be a player whose availability general managers inquire about by the deadline date.

Mike Hoffman

The 32-year-old forward would provide depth for the Rangers at the forward position. The Canadiens may decide to part ways with Mike Hoffman if Hughes wants to create cap space in order to extend pending restricted free agents (RFA) Artturi Lehkonen, Michael Pezetta, Sami Niku, or Kale Clague. The Canadiens may prefer to have cap space in order to re-sign a pending UFA on the team or to make an offer to a free agent in the offseason.

Hoffman would provide the Rangers with a player that Gerard Gallant could play throughout the top nine. He has a history of putting up a good number of goals and assists throughout the years previously with the Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, and St. Louis Blues. He has struggled with injuries this season but if he is healthy, his track record could be a benefit for a team with playoff aspirations such as the Rangers.

Related: Mike Hoffman: 4 Things to Know About the Canadiens Forward

From 2014-15 until 2020-21, Hoffman has averaged over 26 goals and had 29 assists in seven seasons. He has an AAV of $4.5 million in 2021-22 and for the next two years, so that would be an aspect for Drury to consider if he were interested in adding him to the Rangers. The Rangers’ president/GM may find his contract not worth taking on given his age while factoring in the UFA’s and RFA’s who are due extensions for the Rangers.

The Canadiens are looking toward their future as Gorton and Hughes want to establish a good core to complement Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak, and Josh Anderson. The team has some players that will be of interest to playoff contenders. Drury will need to decide if some players available on the Canadiens will be worth acquiring financially if the roster member is not a UFA after 2021-22.

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