When Ben Chiarot needed surgery to repair a broken hand, many speculated that the Montreal Canadiens would go out and acquire another defenseman through trade. Mattias Ekholm was immediately linked to the team, though the financial fit never did seem right. Ekholm has another year on his contract and the Canadiens have already spent big on the back end, with four players earning at least $3.5MM this season and next.
Speaking to the media today including Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin confirmed that they are not looking for Chiarot’s replacement, especially because the big defenseman could be back before the end of the regular season. Chiarot was given a six to eight-week timeline, but Bergevin believes it will be closer to six. Moving him to long-term injured reserve could open space now, but the Canadiens would be in quite the pickle should Chiarot be ready to return before the playoffs.
In fact, Bergevin downplayed the trade market entirely, stressing how little cap flexibility the team has this season. That means this could be the Montreal roster for the rest of the year, save for some minor tweaks.
On defense, the team already had an NHL-ready player to step into Chiarot’s absence with Victor Mete, but he actually didn’t play last night either. Instead, Xavier Ouellet came into the lineup and logged just over 13 minutes in his season debut, further complicating the situation with the 22-year-old Mete. After playing 171 games for the Canadiens over the last three seasons, he’s been on the outside looking in for much of this year, playing just seven games. His agent made headlines earlier in the year suggesting that a change of scenery would be welcomed, something that seems likely to come up again if he continues to sit in place of Ouellet.
Still, it doesn’t sound like Bergevin will be making any sweeping changes—though he has been known to immediately contradict his public statements in the past. The fact is the financial situation all around the league will make trades or any kind difficult.