Ben Chiarot returned to action Sunday with the Montreal Canadiens after missing a week with a lower-body injury. However, his tenure with the Habs could soon come to an end as trade rumors continue to swirl about the 30-year-old defenseman.
Chiarot's frequently surfaced in the rumor mill since November as the Canadiens season went off the rails. An unrestricted free agent this summer with an affordable $3.5-million cap hit, he's reportedly drawing interest from playoff contenders seeking a physical shutdown blueliner. That speculation ratcheted up after they shipped winger Tyler Toffoli last Monday to the Calgary Flames.
Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes told reporters last Wednesday he's received “lots of calls” about Chiarot, adding he'd trade the rearguard if he gets a deal that makes sense for his club. Nevertheless, Chiarot's recent lower-body injury could push Hughes into peddling him sooner rather than waiting for better offers by the March 21 trade deadline.
Hughes didn't indicate which teams were interested in Chiarot. Media chatter has linked him to the Flames, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
On Saturday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the St. Louis Blues are also believed among the suitors. Despite his affordable cap hit, adding him to their payroll will be a tight squeeze as they're bumping up against the $81.5-million cap hit.
The Canadiens' asking price is rumored to be a first-round pick but The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford and Scott Wheeler believe they could be happy receiving a prospect equivalent to a first from the past two years. Still, the Blues will have to shed salary should Hughes prove reluctant to retain any part of Chiarot's cap hit.