Ben Chiarot has been showing up all season in trade rumours and remains one of the most coveted rental defensemen leading up the NHL Trade Deadline. However, that being said, there’s no need for the Montreal Canadiens to rush this trade.
Given his status as an upcoming unrestricted free agent, and his age, the soon-to-be 31-year-old rearguard is the likeliest candidate to be moved given the demand for a defenseman of his ilk on the NHL trade market. With General manager Kent Hughes hinting his optimism in signing 2018 3rd round pick, Jordan Harris, and the likes of Kaiden Guhle, Mattias Norlinder and Jayden Struble coming up the pipe as left-shot defensemen, it seems like this is the perfect time to trade Chiarot.
Chiarot has been a warrior for this Canadiens club, and other teams have taken note, especially after their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff run. Hughes was not shy about his desire to capitalize on what is likely the peak of Chiarot’s value.
“We’ve had conversations with teams. If we had the right trade for Ben Chiarot, we’d trade him at this moment,” said Hughes during his last press conference. on Feb .16th “We’re having continued conversations; that could mean he’s traded today or tomorrow. It could also mean that he’s traded two weeks from now.”
"We've received a lot of phone calls"
Habs GM Kent Hughes discusses the team's position ahead of the trade deadline. pic.twitter.com/WXyQpL1Dsh
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 16, 2022
So what’s the hold-up?
It was reported that Chiarot’s minor ankle injury may have scared off a few teams; most notably the Calgary Flames. The Flames were in talks with the Canadiens for both Tyler Toffoli and Chiarot before the conclusion of the Toffoli deal on Feb 15th. Chiarot has since returned from IR and has picked up right where he left off, playing a solid defensive game and keeping it simple on the ice.
With TSN Insider, Pierre Lebrun, reporting that there’s no shortage of suitors for Chiarot, mentioning the likes of the New York Rangers, the St. Louis Blues, the Toronto Maples Leafs and the Florida Panthers, it seems like the Canadiens are playing a waiting game to see which of these playoff-bound clubs is going to crack first. The Canadiens aren’t planning on giving Chiarot away; the reported ask for the player is a 1st round pick and an extra asset, be it a pick or minor prospect. That’s quite a haul for Chiarot and will undoubtedly require the Canadiens to eat 50% of his $3.5M Cap hit to complete the deal, something the Canadiens can and should announce to all potential suitors. With things currently being quiet on the Chiarot front, it’s not outlandish to think that this is simply the calm before the storm; and it’s probably the correct view if you look at precedent.
Current Canadiens blueliner David Savard, the player whom many are using as a comparable for Chiarot’s trade value, was moved two days before the 2021 NHL trade deadline by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blue Jackets retained 50% of Savard’s salary and received a 2021 1st round pick and a 2022 3rd round pick for the blueline; Detroit was also given a 4th round pick in 2021 for retaining an additional 50% on Savard’s deal. It could very well be that, the longer this drags out, the better it could be for the Montreal Canadiens, as long as Chiarot can stay healthy.
Similarly to Savard, building up the asset’s NHL trade value by creating a bidding war for his services is exactly what netted the Blue Jackets the above return for Savard. As the Canadiens begin to approach the NHL Trade Deadline, now less than a month away, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chiarot begin to sit out games to ensure his good health and protect his asset value. If the Canadiens can outwait their potential trade partners, some teams may indeed crack by paying the Canadiens’ rumoured price and securing the player before a trading frenzy begins.
Patience Will Pay Off
An example of a team cracking could be the Toronto Maple Leafs, who recently lost defenseman Jake Muzzin to an upper-body injury for what looks to be the remainder of the regular season. The Leafs, placing Muzzin on LTIR frees up $5.625M in Cap Space, but it also leaves them with a massive hole on in the top-4 of their defensive brigade. With Chris Johnston of TSN suggesting that Toronto is one of the front-runners in the race for Chiarot, could they be more inclined to bite the bullet and acquire Chiarot now to ensure a proper replacement for Muzzin? It’s very possible.
As long as Hughes continues to wait, there’s significant reason to believe other teams will join Toronto in their serious run at Chiarot, and the return will be a 1st round pick and an additional asset. Patience and careful deployment of Chiarot will pay dividends for the Canadiens, but it seems more and more likely that this will be resolved well before the March 21st Nhl Trade Deadline.