As NHL trade talks started to heat up this week, the Montreal Canadiens and general manager Kent Hughes traded veteran defender Ben Chiarot to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night in exchange for Florida’s 2023 1st round pick, a 2022 4th round pick and prospect Ty Smilanic. With Chiarot being such an essential player for Montreal, the Canadiens needed to ensure they maximized the return on any potential trade involving him, and it looks like they succeeded.
The Canadiens stuck to their asking price of a 1st round pick throughout the process, even when many insiders across the league were calling this a buyer’s market. In the end, the Canadiens could not have asked for much better in terms of value for their soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defenseman. As one of the most coveted pieces on the NHL trade front, Hughes was patient and was ultimately able to extract a very interesting package from the Panthers, making this one of the better returns for a rental defenceman in years. We break down the return below:
Unprotected 2023 1st Round Pick
The inclusion of a 1st round pick was a must in any deal for the Canadiens blueliner. There was talk of teams possibly coveting 2023 1st round picks, and with Montreal already having two 1st round picks in the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft, it made sense for them to spread the wealth over two drafts, rather than go heavy into one year. The Canadiens were able to get the 2023 1st rounder out of the Panthers, who had already traded their 2022 1st round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in the Sam Reinhart trade, but the real value lies in the fact that there is no protection on the pick leading up to next year’s draft.
“We asked for 2023 1st rounders from many of the teams we talked to,” said Kent Hughes during this morning’s press conference. ”We already have three picks in the top-35.”
That means that no matter where the Panthers finish next season, the Canadiens will be picking at that spot. Granted, the Panthers are a very well-built team, and general manager Bill Zito has done a great job in ensuring long-term success, so the chances of this pick being high are very slim. However, not many people expected the New York Islanders, and to a lesser degree the Vegas Golden Knights, to have such underwhelming seasons in 2021-2022 after getting to the Conference Finals the year prior, so anything is possible.
The added bonus is that 2023 looks to be a strong draft at the top, meaning that, even if this pick is late, there could be some good talent available for the Canadiens wherever this pick lies. That’s not to say that the 2022 Draft will be bad, but the 2023 class has more elite talent at the top, pushing quality players you’d typically find in the 15-20 overall range to into the 20-30 overall range.
Smilanic is an interesting prospect to receive from Florida, as he fits right into the Canadiens’ vision for a team predicated on speed and skill. Smilanic is a player that will wow fans with his motor and solid skating mechanics, as he plays like a puck-hound on the ice, constantly pushing the pace of the game while possessing underrated offensive tools. Smilanic hasn’t lit up the NCAA since being drafted by the Panthers, but he projects to be serviceable in more ways than just his offensive ability.
“We feel that our style of play is becoming a little more obvious. In trying to be smarter and faster, bringing that type of player to the organization is going to help us,” said Hughes regarding Smilanic. “Ty Smilanic helps to address that; he can score, and he can skate and has a lot of what we’re looking for.”
Ty Smilanic are you KIDDING ME?! pic.twitter.com/57Vp01LMhZ
— ECAC Hockey (@ecachockey) January 15, 2022
Here’s MHN Canadiens beat reporter and prospects expert Marco D’Amico’s take on the Quinnipiac forward:
“Ty Smilanic is a former 3rd round pick (74th overall) for the Panthers in 2020 and has spent the last two seasons in the NCAA playing at Quinnipiac University. He has above-average skills and plays a relentless forecheck, but hasn’t taken off like many thought when he played for the United States National Development Team in his draft year. The Montreal Canadiens must feel like they can help him develop more optimally. He fits right into general Manager Kent Hughes’ vision of having a team predicated on speed and skill. He is by no means a can’t miss prospect, but there is potential for him to turn into an interesting player under Montreal’s tutelage.”
Smilanic is your classic B-level prospect that could help further insulate a bottom-six and play a very intense and effective two-way game. His shooting ability, most notably his one-timer, is very underrated and frankly underused during his time at Quinnipiac since leaving the United States Development Team. Hughes and the rest of the Canadiens management team likely believe there is more untapped offensive potential in his game, but the benefit with Smilanic is he projects to be a serviceable bottom-six player in the worst of cases.
Ty Smilanic just scores goals. It's what he does. pic.twitter.com/m4gpH5f0Ha
— ECAC Hockey (@ecachockey) October 23, 2021
4th Round Pick
The Canadiens were also able to extract a 4th round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft from the Florida Panthers, which they had acquired just a few hours from the New York Rangers in the Frank Vatrano trade. With this pick, the Canadiens now have 13 total picks headed to the NHL Draft, and they likely aren’t done dealing for more before the NHL Trade Deadline.
The 4th round pick had a key stipulation in the Frank Vatrano trade. When yesterday’s trade between the Rangers and the Panthers, New York owned their own 4th and Winnipeg’s 4th round pick as well, the stipulation is that Montreal will receive the lower of the two 4th round picks by proxy of Florida, which is likely to be Winnipeg’s with the way the season is shaping up.
The decision on which pick will be transferred to the Canadiens will be finalized once the season ends and the draft order is determined. Nonetheless, the Canadiens now have three 4th round picks headed into the 2022 NHL Draft.
The Montreal Canadiens got a haul for Ben Chiarot. In comparison to the return of Josh Manson, who fetched the Anaheim Ducks a 2023 2nd round pick and prospect Drew Helleson, Chiarot received the more attractive package. The unprotected 1st round pick is very intriguing due to the possibility of picking high in case the Florida Panthers have an improbable fall from grace and the quality of the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft. The added assets of Smilanic, a speedy, two-way forward with bottom-six potential, and a 4th round pick in 2022 are just gravy on what is already an impressive haul for the Canadiens.
Compared to past rental prices for the top-4 defencemen in past years, the Canadiens were able to get more value on Chiarot than the Columbus Blue Jackets did for David Savard at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. Kent Hughes had a pricepoint early on and stuck to it, despite the talk of this being a buyer’s market. Hughes was able to extract more for Chiarot than most people believed, and this now gives the team added flexibility going into the future. Ultimately, this trade may not provide fans with an immediate return on investment, but the value acquired here is more than enough to warrant the praise he’s received.
Trade Grade: A
Terrific return for Chiarot and well timed by Habs management. The market was shrinking. Mtl knew Calgary was zoned in on a forward (Jarnkrok) and clubs were backing away from Chiarot as a pure rental. Moving him early bumps the market, but smart play by the Canadiens.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 17, 2022