Eggs Bennett 22-09
May 25, 2022
The Montreal Canadiens may already be well into off-season mode, but their fans continue to root for some former Habs who made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last week we did a check up on Tyler Toffoli. Let’s turn our attention to the second player moved at the trade deadline – Ben Chiarot.
How it started…
Ben Chiarot signed with the Montreal Canadiens as an unrestricted free agent on July 4, 2019, after playing in six previous NHL seasons. The three-year deal, with an AAV of $3.5M, was initially criticized by Habs fans since Big Ben did not address the real need on defence for a puck mover. At the end of the day, Chiarot was decent value for money, despite sometimes highly questionable deployment. He was an important piece of the 22-game playoff run of 2021 when he was one of the big four on D for the Habs.
In Chiarot’s pending unrestricted free agency season, the Habs were clearly sellers by trick or treating season. The easiest decision for the leadership duo of Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton (HuGo) was to ship out Chiarot for futures.
On March 16th, Chiarot was traded to the Florida Panthers for forward Tyler Smilanic, who had been drafted by Florida in the third round of the 2020 draft and is developing in the NCAA, a 1st round pick in 2023, and a 4th round pick in the 2022 draft. The Habs retained 50% on Chiarot’s deal to make the salary cap work.
How it’s going…
Selling at the deadline was profitable for the Habs, landing them in 32nd place and the best odds to win the lottery. The odds paid off and HuGo will take the stage in Montreal on July 7th to make the first overall pick. With incredible depth at left-side defence, re-signing Chiarot was never in the cards for a rebuilding team in desperate need of first round picks.
In Florida, Chiarot played in 10 playoff games for the Panthers. He contributed one assist and was a minus one while playing an average of just over 17 minutes per game, on some nights seeing as few as 14-15 minutes. Of course, the Panthers didn’t add Chiarot at the deadline for his points production. On Tuesday, following the Panthers’ elimination the previous night, Todd Cordell from @TheScore took to Twitter and provided some tough analysis of Chiarot’s time in Florida.
“The Panthers, theoretically, traded a 1st+ for Ben Chiarot with the hope he’d provide good defense. At 5v5 they allowed attempts and chances at a higher rate with him than every other D on the team. His PK stats were also horrendous. Awful trade at the time and it aged worse.
Five Panthers D averaged at least 1:20 per game on the PK. Chiarot ranked last in attempts against, shots against, expected goals against, chances against & high-danger chances against per 60. He ended up 5th among the group in TOI, presumably because he was getting crushed.”
The outcome here is no surprise for many Habs fans, who were familiar with both Chiarot’s finest attributes, as well as the long periods of languishing in a top pair with Shea Weber. The message has been clear for years. Play Chiarot down your depth chart – his best numbers for Florida were with Radko Gudas – and he’ll be okay. But if you play Big Ben out of his depth you’ll start to feel it, no matter how big and mean he looks doing it.
Was it worth it?
This deal was a steal for the Habs. They landed an extra pick for the Montreal draft, a second first rounder for the deep 2023 draft, and a solid prospect. Smilanic will continue to develop in Quinnipiac and has potential to become a 200-foot bottom six NHL forward with decent size. It will be up to the scouting staff to make sure the Habs capitalize on the picks.
The Panthers did not go all-in at the trade deadline so they could get swept in the second round of the playoffs. Their wheeling and dealing left them very thin indeed on picks for the next three drafts. If Chiarot ultimately becomes a rental, the trade was probably not worth it for Florida.
With the Panthers weak at LHD, it will be interesting to see if they were fond enough of Chiarot to offer him a new deal, or if he will hit the free agent market in July. If the playoffs were any indication, he probably doesn’t bring enough value to the Panthers for the contract he will fetch in free agency.
Some of the deals made on trade deadline day become regrettable for the acquiring team. This may be one such situation, and the Habs were the beneficiaries.