Panthers pay heavy price to land Ben Chiarot from Canadiens

Cats acquire experienced blueliner to bolster playoff chances

The Florida Panthers acquired defenseman Ben Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens last night in exchange for prospect Ty Smilanic, a fourth-round selection in the 2022 NHL Draft (acquired earlier in the day from the New York Rangers for forward Frank Vatrano) and Florida’s first-round selection in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Additionally, the Canadiens agreed to retain 50% of Chiarot’s remaining salary. He ill become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

General manager Bill Zito had this to say:

“Ben is a solid veteran defenseman that will bring both experience and size to our blue line,” Zito said. “Having reached the Stanley Cup Final with Montreal last season, he is a player that knows what it takes to make a deep playoff run, which is what our organization is striving for in these next few months.”

Chiarot, 30, has played in 54 games with the Canadiens this season, producing seven goals and 18 points. His seven goals, 18 assists and 96 shots on goal led Montreal defensemen, while averaging a team-high 23:33 of ice time per game.

During Montreal’s surprising run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Chiarot led Canadiens skaters with an average time on ice of 25:15, the highest among all skaters who played at least 15 playoff games last season. He scored his first career playoff goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay.

Chiarot was originally selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft and has played in 469 NHL games between Montreal (2019-20 to 2021-22) and the Winnipeg Jets (2013-14 to 2018-19), amassing 110 points (29G/81A).

In addition to the two picks, the Habs get Smilanic, who posted 13 goals and 22 points in 38 games a sophomore with Quinnipiac University. The six-foot-one, 177-pound forward ranked second on the Bobcats in goals. he scored fourteen times as a freshman. Smilanic was selected in the third round (74th overall) by Florida in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The Cats are counting on Chiarot to help solidify the club’s back end and help the keep the puck out of the net come playoff time. After winning three rounds last year, his postseason experience will be a boon to the Panthers, who are looking to advance past the opening round for the first time since 1996.

Essentially giving up Vatrano, Smilanic and yet another first-round pick is unquestionably a high price to pat, but it’ll all be worth it if the team hoist’s Lord Stanley’s mug in a few months. Now is the time...