The Habs made their second big trade of the Kent Hughes era earlier this week when Ben Chiarot was sent to Florida for prospect Ty Smilanic, a 2023 first-rounder, and a 2022 fourth-rounder. Our writers discuss the move.
Terry Costaris: You have to be happy with Montreal’s haul here. This had to be the most that the Canadiens could possibly extract for Chiarot.
Smilanic is a big, very fast, gritty player with an offensive upside. He has the potential to be either a third or fourth liner. Smilanic strikes me as being a prototypical Vegas Golden Knights’-like player. Maybe this is what Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes are trying to emulate given their last two trades.
Ty Smilanic is a 20-year-old sophomore on a top-ranked team. There are five players ahead of him points-wise, all of whom are seniors. Somehow, Smilanic has managed to snag some of their ice time.
Let’s also consider his age relative to his peers. He’s playing against a lot of quality 23- and 24-year-old players and looking pretty good against them.
Then there’s the intel aspect of this acquisition. Jeff Gorton, Kent Hughes, and Martin St Louis’ kids played against him. So, there’s a history there.
What would really sweeten this deal is if Chiarot pulls a Tomas Plekanec and re-signs this summer as a free agent.
Chiarot loved playing in Montreal and has publicly stated that he felt very respected by both Gorton and Hughes. He might come back and be a valuable placeholder/mentor while youngsters like Kaiden Guhle and company become acclimated to the NHL.
As for getting another first, I love it. It could be used to select another player or perhaps, be part of a package to land some promising prospect in order to speed up the rebuild.
Then there’s the 4th. It’s just one more dart to throw on the draft board. Montreal has struck gold in the lower rounds in the past, so who knows. It could also be moved for a higher pick in 2023 or 2024. There’s asset management and then there’s draft pick management. Montreal has too many draft picks this summer. Some will have to be moved.
Just out of curiosity, has any team received say a 4th, traded it for a 3rd for the next year and then for a 2nd the following year? Inquiring minds want to know.
Allan Katz: I’ve read about twenty articles on this trade and eighteen and a half of them have the Habs winning the trade. Ultimately, this is the type of trade that needs to be assessed on a level a little deeper than who won. For example, there’s no way Calgary lost the Toffoli trade, but neither did Montreal. Calgary did really well for what they were trying to do and so did the Habs. Likewise, the same with the Chiarot trade; two teams, different priorities, both fulfilled their own goals.
Having said that, I feel this trade is a better coup for Montreal than the Toffoli trade. Chiarot is a rental after all. Chiarot would almost for sure not be back with Montreal next year. Toffoli would have been and still be the sniper he is. Chiarot passes the eyeball and bruise test and fails miserably at the underlying stats. Yet during the St. Louis era, he has been really, really solid. The big lumbering almost man mountain is exactly who we think he is with his biggest crime being the misspelling of his name; it should be Chariot, just a cooler name.
The most fun with this trade is reading the reader’s comments. Habs fans are a strange lot. Perhaps these are Leaf fans trying to diss the Habs, but the comments are so off the charts with obviously no knowledge of how trades work or in fact anything in sports. One fan argued that the team did nothing to improve this year or next with the two trades. The fact that this was how the trades were constructed to configure both teams’ talent pools to their timelines was totally lost on this commentator. Calgary and Florida are dealing with the present, Montreal is waiting for Suzuki, Caufield, Romanov to blossom into the all-stars they’re capable of becoming. They’re waiting for a plethora of talent to blossom in two or three years.
The ultimate decider will be great drafting and development of talent on the part of the new management team. Solid start.
Brian La Rose: It’s hard not to like this deal from Montreal’s perspective. I didn’t think Chiarot would get a first-rounder but instead a pair of second-round selections so this is an improvement on that even if Florida’s 2023 first probably won’t be too high. Smilanic is a prospect I’ve liked since his draft year when we had him getting drafted by Montreal in the second round in our mock draft. He’s set to take on a much bigger offensive role next year so he’s someone whose value could potentially jump up pretty quickly a year from now.
Chiarot had a good run with the Habs and made anyone who thought his original contract was way too much (myself included) look pretty bad. He should be a good fit in Florida who was looking for a physical shutdown defender that can play in the top four and the Panthers appear to be poised to take aim at a long playoff run. Hughes did well here – he set his price, waited teams out until he got it, and only then pulled the trigger. That’s doable in the days leading up to the trade deadline but as Monday approaches, it will be interesting to see if he holds firm or adjusts closer to the last minute.
Peter Longo: Considering that Chiarot will be an unrestricted free agent and will want to play for a competitive team on likely his last big contract, the Habs had no chance to re-sign him. He played great for the Habs but a trade was inevitable. The return of a 1st, a former 3rd, and a 4th rounder is pretty much as good as it gets. Of course, I’m still in disbelief that NHL GMs actually trade away first-round picks for rental players. But if someone wants to give up even more than this for an expiring contract, the Habs are happy to do business. Thanks, Florida!
Ken MacLeod: By sticking to their guns for the deal they believed was out there from an all-in trade partner, Montreal’s management team got a better-than-expected return for Chiarot from Florida.
Looked at objectively — the 2023 Entry Draft is projected to be stronger than the upcoming 2022 draft — the return for a left-shooting defender who can play both sides was at least as good as what the Habs got from the Flames for Tyler Toffoli, who still has two seasons left after this one on a contract with a very affordable $4.25M cap hit.
The first-round pick is the main prize, but Smilanic, a 20-year-old forward taken 74th overall in 2020 and in his second year in a top NCAA program with the Quinnipiac Bobcats of the ECAC, strengthens an already deep Habs prospect pool. A good offensive player with top-nine NHL upside, Smilanic will likely stay in school for at least one more season before turning pro. But like all NCAA prospects, the Canadiens will have to sign him by the summer of 2024 or he walks away as a free agent.
Dave Woodward: The return for Chiarot was far above fair value for a rental. To be sure, if the Panthers win the Cup, it will have been worth it for them. However, given the parity in the league, the chances are still relatively slim that the Panthers will win it all and are even less that Chiarot will be the player that puts them over the top.
For the Canadiens, a first-round pick in a deep 2023 draft, a solid prospect in Smilanic, and a 2022 fourth-round pick is a very nice return, even for a solid shutdown defender like Chiarot.
While the 2023 first-rounder is the primary asset going to Montreal, Smilanic was a 2020 third-round pick that dropped in that draft as many had expected him to be selected in the second round. He’s an excellent skater who plays with speed and therefore fits with the style of play that the Habs’ new brain trust aspire to. Based on the scouting reports, Smilanic’s decision-making and on-ice awareness need work but his college coach at Quinnipiac raves about his goal-scoring ability and the strides he has made over the last few years in becoming a 200-foot player. Smilanic is a prospect who will likely need some seasoning in the AHL but he does have potential. Of course, the 2022 fourth-round pick is an opportunity to land another prospect. Most fourth-rounders will never play an NHL game but one never knows.
This is a nice piece of asset management by Hughes. He held out for a first-round pick and a prospect and, by retaining half of Chiarot’s salary, received a fourth-rounder as well. Everyone in the Habs’ organization will miss Chiarot and his rugged style of play but this deal is a positive step in the new regime’s efforts to rebuild the team.