With the trade deadline just over a month away, it’s time to look at some of the players who have a good chance of being on the move between now and March 21st.
A few years ago, Ben Chiarot was playing a limited role on Winnipeg’s back end and the three-year, $10.5MM contract he signed with Montreal back in 2019 raised some eyebrows for being what appeared to be a pretty generous payment. However, the 30-year-old has become a fixture in the top four for the Canadiens and after a strong showing in the playoffs last year, Montreal has set a high price tag for the pending UFA with several teams already expressing interest.
Chiarot is in the final season of his deal that carries a $3.5MM AAV. The contract also contains a 10-team no-trade clause.
As has been the case for pretty much everyone in Montreal this season, things have not gone well for Chiarot. His primary partner from last season was Shea Weber who hasn’t played at all this year and likely won’t again. Former GM Marc Bergevin tried to recreate a similar pairing by adding David Savard but that duo didn’t work well when they were together while Jeff Petry – who has been moved into the number one role – has also struggled.
The end result is that Chiarot has struggled considerably. He has been asked to play a bigger role than he should be, including taking a regular turn on the power play for extended stretches. His offensive numbers are close to his recent output but he hasn’t fared well being the focal part of their defensive plan and the advanced stats aren’t any better when it comes to scoring chances and shots allowed.
That makes his case a particularly interesting one. How much stock will teams be willing to put into his performance over his first two seasons with Montreal and their playoff runs (spanning 32 games) compared to his level of play this season? The player he was during the first two years is worth a lot more than the player he has been in 2021-22.
44 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, -27 rating, 36 PIMS, 82 shots, 23:17 TOI, 45.8 CF%
No playoff-bound team will be looking at Chiarot to play the role he has been with Montreal. As a fourth option that can kill penalties though, he’d represent an upgrade for several teams while deepening their depth.
In the East, the Panthers, Hurricanes, Rangers, Maple Leafs, and Bruins have all been linked to Chiarot already. Carolina’s top four on the back end is set and someone like Chiarot would really improve their depth and take off some pressure from that top group. Even with 50% retention though, making the money work would be tight. The left side of Florida’s back end is their weaker side and for now, they have close to enough cap room to bring him in through LTIR although it should be noted that Markus Nutivaara hasn’t been ruled out for the season yet.
The Rangers have more than enough cap space and Jeff Gorton and former European scouting director Nick Bobrov now with Montreal, they’re going to be speculatively linked to the Canadiens on multiple trade fronts. Toronto has made it known they’d like to add to their back end although GM Kyle Dubas’ stated preference is to add someone signed beyond this season. If they were to send one of Travis Dermott or Justin Holl back to Montreal in a deal that also featured 50% retention on Chiarot, the move could be close to cap-neutral as well. Boston and Montreal don’t trade with each other very often and they’re more of a curious fit as Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, and Mike Reilly already comprise their left side. While Chiarot can play on the right, only the third pairing needs to be shored up there so he may not be the best target for them.
Out West, the Blues, Kings, and Flames have been identified as known suitors. St. Louis has a definite need to upgrade the left side of their back end and Chiarot fits the style that head coach Craig Berube would like but they’re basically in a spot where they have to match money which would make things more challenging as they ideally wouldn’t want to subtract from their roster. Los Angeles continues to hang around the playoff mix and certainly have a hole to try to fill on the left side of their back end. While it’s possible that Alexander Edler could return this year which would complicate things from a cap perspective, the Kings could ask to include Olli Maatta’s expiring contract which is almost the same price tag as Chiarot’s to offset that risk.
Calgary was involved in talks for Chiarot as part of the Tyler Toffoli trade earlier this week. While such a move would be harder now from a cap perspective, they also have a salary offset in Nikita Zadorov’s expiring deal that could help on that front. While Nashville hasn’t been directly linked to Chiarot, they’re a team that he would fit on but the question is how much they will be willing to spend on a rental player in a season that had been deemed as a bit of a reset coming into the year.
Likelihood Of A Trade
GM Kent Hughes met with the media earlier this week and all but guaranteed that Chiarot will be on the move as soon as someone is willing to meet the asking price. Reports have suggested that the Canadiens are looking at what Columbus got for Savard last season (a first-round pick along with a third-rounder) as the benchmark for a move and they are willing to retain the maximum 50% for it to happen. Barring another injury, it’d be very surprising to see the veteran in a Montreal uniform after the deadline.