Just recently, NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun informed us that the Canadiens were insistant on getting top-prospect Jakob Pelletier from the Flames in exchange for Ben Chiarot, which we’ve covered here. This is a big ask, but considering the unique set of skills Chiarot brings to the table, it’s not something that’s overly unreasonable.
There are several other teams interested in the Canadiens big defenseman and based on the asking price from the Flames, it’s to wonder what they would be wanting from those teams. So let’s research a bit based on the teams that we know (or are rumoured to) have interest in acquiring Chiarot.
If we believe NHL Insiders, there are at least six teams showing interest: the Flames of course, the Panthers, the Rangers, the Blues, the Maple Leafs and just recently, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
We won’t expand on that but we know that the Canadiens want Pelletier. Check the link above if you don’t know him well. What we don’t know is if the Canadiens want more than just a prospect.
I personally thought that they’d want Owen Tippett, a 23 year-old winger standing at 6-foot 1-inch and 207 lbs. Tippett was a prolific goals’ scorer in junior. He has a hard, heavy and accurate shot, and the mentality of a sniper. He will shoot from almost anywhere and needs to improve his passing skills to keep opponents honest. You cannot teach scoring so paired with a good playmaker, he could provide some help to Cole Caufield.
But while Tippett was out of the line-up, Vincent Lecavalier was scouting the Panthers. The other young players he might have been watching is 23 year old center Eetu Luostarinen. Drafted in the second round (42nd overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes, Luostarinen is a good two-way center who skates well, is coachable and has good hockey sense.
I think that for this one, the target is rather obvious. The Rangers happen to have this 22 year-old winger playing in the KHL right now, waiting for a trade. Vitali Kravtsov is an offensive dynamo with tremendous skill with the puck. At 6-foot 3-inches and 193 lbs, he is also a big guy who is also an extremely good skater. He can certainly be a game-breaking, offensive force when he is on the ice. His ties with Jeff Gorton (while in New York) are not to be ignored.
Looking at the Blues’ depth chart, it’s hard to narrow it down to one prospect. In fact, I see two possibilities close to matching the asking price from the Flames. The obvious one is Trois-Rivières native Zachary Bolduc, a 19 year-old center playing for the Quebec Remparts. He has 63 points (32 goals) in 45 games so far in the QMJHL.
It could also be Airdrie Alberta native Jake Neighbours, the Blues first round pick (26th overall) back in 2020. The left winger is a teammate of Kaiden Guhle with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He has 41 points in 25 games this season in the WHL. Neighbours played nine games to start the season with the Blues (1G-1A) before being sent back to junior. He represented Canada with Guhle at the World Juniors this season.
With the Penguins, I can see three options so it would depend on what Kent Hughes is looking for and their evaluation of those players. First, Samuel Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first round pick in 2019 (21st overall). Standing at 6-foot 2-inches and 214 lbs, he is a complete player who can do it all on the ice and has a strong work ethic. He can play both wings, although he is left handed.
Next, is John Marino. I didn’t think he would be available until recent rumours tie him to the Canucks in Vancouver. The 24 year-old is a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman. He has 19 points in 60 games this season, playing behind Kristopher Letang on the right side.
Last but not least, we have Laval-native defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph. The 22 year-old was the Arizona Coyotes’ first round pick (23rd) in 2017. While the Canadiens are stacked on the left side of their defense, few have the skating and offensive abilities Joseph brings. He has 30 points in 42 games so far with the Penguins’ AHL farm team.
In the division, natural rivals, the asking price has to be a bit higher for the Leafs. But truthfully, they don’t have much interesting in their system. And by trying to address their needs both on defense and in goal, they won’t have much left after this year either.
Perhaps Topi Niemelä, a 19 year-old right-handed undersized defenseman? The Leafs’ third round pick in 2020 has 30 points in 44 games playing for Kärpät in Liiga. They still have their first round pick and considering they have not won a single playoffs’ series in 17 consecutive years, getting it could very well end up being a mid-first round pick.
Regardless of who they would get from Toronto, I would insist for the Leafs to throw in Saint John Sea Dogs’ right-handed defenseman William Villeneuve. The 19 year-old Leafs’ 4th round pick in 2020 has 39 points in 43 games so far in the QMJHL.