The Winnipeg Jets were professional multi-taskers last night. Not long after drafting Kristian Vesalainen 24th overall in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, the “True North” locked up one of their own in defenseman Ben Chiarot. Renaud Lavoie of TVA reported the extension close at close to 11 PM CT in Chicago, as the Jets’ brass were working into the wee hours of the night. Chiarot, an impending restricted free agent, will return for two more years at $1.4MM per season.
Winnipeg has already been masterful this season at keeping their defense intact. They first convinced veteran Toby Enstrom to waive his No-Movement Clause, allowing him to be exposed in Wednesday’s Expansion Draft so that Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, and Jacob Trouba could be protected. Then, upon hearing rumors that the Vegas Golden Knights were considering selecting Enstrom, the Jets struck a deal to move down 13 spots in the NHL Draft, swapping their #13 overall pick with Columbus’ #24 overall pick, which Vegas had already acquired. Now, having survived Expansion with all of their top-four defenseman, Winnipeg has locked up their #5 at a reasonable rate over the next two years of the 26-year-old’s career. With youngster Josh Morrissey and veteran Mark Stuart also in the fold, it seem that the Jets will enter free agency next week with a solid seven on the blue line and no need for concern.
Chiarot, a big stay-at-home defenseman, also put up a career-high 12 points in Winnipeg last year. In 59 games, the 6’3″, 219-lb. blue liner registered two goals and ten assists, all at even strength. While Chiarot may not be an asset on the power play, he is one of the team’s top penalty killers. Chiarot can check and block shots very well, though the Jets wouldn’t mind if he did more of both. They have two more years to work on rounding out the still-developing defender’s game before he hits unrestricted free agency in 2019. Don’t be surprised to see Chiarot on a short leash over the course of this new contract, as Winnipeg already sports strong depth on defense with top prospects Logan Stanley and Luke Green on their way up sooner rather than later as well.