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Analyzing the Ben Chiarot trade to Florida

The Canadiens ended up with quite the haul for an expiring contract.

Seattle Kraken v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Much to the chagrin of the TSN Tradecentre crew, the Montreal Canadiens elected not to wait until next week’s deadline to get their trades going, starting with one of their hottest assets. On Wednesday night, they announced that Ben Chiarot was on the move to the Florida Panthers in exchange for two draft picks, as well as prospect Tyler Smilanic.

Chiarot is on an expiring contract, so he is a rental for the Panthers unless they extend him. The lease on his services netted the Canadiens a first-rounder for a very attractive 2023 draft class, a prospect, and a bonus lottery ticket in the form of a fourth-rounder for the 2022 draft.

It is definitely encouraging at first glance, but before we call it as a win or a loss for either team, let’s take a deeper look at the assets the Canadiens acquired in this trade.

Tyler Smilanic

Smilanic is a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, drafted 74th overall by the Panthers in 2020 and currently playing for Quinnipiac in the NCAA. He was slated to compete with Team USA at the ill-fated 2022 World Junior Championship but did not appear in any games before the tournament was cancelled.

Elite Prospects

Birthplace: Denver, Colorado
Date of birth: January 20, 2002
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre/Left Wing
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 178 lbs.
Team: Quinnipiac (NCAA)

Smilanic is a high-energy, versatile forward who can play at centre or on the wing. Skating stands out as a primary strength, as he is quite fast and capable of making plays at high speeds. He is generally well-positioned, and his high-level skating allows him to be very active in transition as well as getting back on defence when the need arises.

His main weaknesses lie in his awareness, decision-making, and playmaking. He can score at a decent rate, but isn’t very capable of creating opportunities for his linemates, and can often create turnovers while being a little ambitious with his passes. Defensively, he isn’t bad, but could definitely be categorized as needing work on his 200-foot game.

There is also some concern about the lack of progression, given he has only one more point than he had in 2020-21 while playing in nine more games. Ideally, while playing on a Quinnipiac squad ranked sixth in the NCAA, we’d at least see him maintaining the previous year’s pace. He’ll get a chance to show some more progression, as he should be in for at least one more year of college, and there is no rush for him to turn professional any time soon.

As first mentioned in Smilanic’s 2020 draft profile, the awareness and decision-making issues likely rule out the centre position at the professional level. He does project as capable of taking on a bottom-six role on the wing in the future if things go well.

The scouting report sure sounds like a Paul Byron type (though Byron has, and does, play centre in the NHL at times). If Smilanic can become a bigger-bodied version of Byron in the Canadiens’ lineup one day, that would arguably be an acceptable exchange for Chiarot on its own. However, what makes this trade great is that it wasn’t one-for-one.

The draft picks

The 2023 NHL Draft stands to be very deep, and now the Canadiens hold two selections in the first round. It could mean multiple players, or an opportunity to leverage those picks to move higher in the draft if the opportunity arises.

There is a small caveat to the first-rounder, in that Florida had a previous trade with the Buffalo Sabres involving a condition on that pick. If the Panthers’ 2022 first-rounder, previously dealt to Buffalo, ends up being a top-10 pick, the 2023 selection goes to Buffalo instead. If this were to happen, the return package may have to be be revisited if that situation hasn’t already been addressed. Given that the Panthers are currently six points clear of Tampa Bay for the top spot in the Atlantic, this is an extremely unlikely event.

The fourth-rounder in 2022 is a lottery ticket, but it does bump the Habs up to 13 total selections in the upcoming draft as of this writing. There could be a possibility of using that pick to move up in another round if they are so inclined, so it’s a fine throw-in to complete the trade.

Thoughts

I would personally have loved to see either Justin Sourdif or Owen Tippett as the player coming to Montreal in this trade, but there’s no sense in splitting hairs. This is an absolute win for the Tricolore, and an overpay by the Panthers. There was virtually no chance the Habs had any plans to bring Chiarot back next year, and three assets in return seems better than anyone could have expected.

Florida won’t shed any tears if they end up winning a Stanley Cup this season, but if they don’t, and Chiarot walks in the off-season, they paid quite the price for a rental. Resigning him would be one way to boost their own value from the trade if he performs the way they are expecting to him on the blue line.

As the opening deadline move for the Habs — if you don’t count the Tyler Toffoli trade made over a month ago — it is a slam dunk. If this is the type of value that Kent Hughes can get out of his players in trades, the Canadiens could be in a fantastic position once the deadline passes.