The Unsexy, Realistic St. Louis Blues Trade To Improve The Defense

Ben Chiarot (7)St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Ben Chiarot (7)St. Louis BluesMandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports /

Depending on when you read this, we are either on the brink of March or have crossed over into the month of the lion and the lamb. For St. Louis Blues fans, it’s usually an exciting time of year.

The end of the season is in sight, so fans start scoreboard watching to see how the playoff standings are going to shake out. With a few exceptions when it has been in February, March also means trade deadline.

In 2022, the deadline falls on Monday, March 21. That gives the team roughly three weeks to prove whether they are fine as they are or if Doug Armstrong needs to make some changes.

Take any gander on social media and you’ll always find those that think the team needs a major overhaul. Posts are filled with nonsense about going after goal scorers or guys who earn more money than anyone currently on the Blues.

Like the political discussion – take your pick on any issue – there is never any solution presented. It’s always just Armstrong needs to get X-player or the Blues have no chance.

What assets are you willing to give up for said player? How do you work the salary cap when the Blues have less cap space than the league’s minimum salary for a contract?

Facts be damned. Fans want a splash. It doesn’t matter if it’s at the draft or at the deadline, there are always some that say a general manager has failed if he didn’t make a headline-stealing trade.

That’s not happening, barring some unforeseen event. It would cost the Blues too much and they’d have to alter the roster too much to make the money work in most cases.

However, as I fully bury the lead here, there is an interesting trade idea that would actually benefit the team. It involves a defender and a team that is in serious need of change.

If Armstrong feels the team needs a change, they should go after Ben Chiarot of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s not flashy or sexy or headline stealing, but it would help.

In my proposal, I would send Marco Scandella back to the Canadiens. If a player for player swap is not acceptable, and it rarely is today, then you can throw in a second or third-round draft pick.

The money basically works out. Chiarot has a cap hit of $3.5 million, while Scandella is eating up $3.275. You would have to maneuver a bottom six forward or sixth or seventh defenseman to clear up those remaining thousands, but that’s much easier than needing to fit millions in.

Additionally, Chiarot is an upgrade. Scandella fit in perfectly when the Blues acquired him, but it’s been a slow decline since then.

Scandella’s blocks and takeaway numbers are both down, his hits are about the same and his giveaway numbers are up. Due to those factors, his minutes and average time on the ice are both way down.

Some might argue those numbers are down because of his ice time, but it’s really the reverse. He’s not been good when the Blues have had him in there, so Craig Berube has taken him from the top pairing with Colton Parayko to a bottom pairing and sometimes a healthy scratch.

Compare that with Chiarot. Prior to the pandemic, Chiarot had become a blocking machine in Winnipeg and Montreal. Those numbers have stayed respectable, even with reduced games.

Every season Chiarot has played 60 games or more, he’s had more than 100 hits. He’s already over 100 hits in 48 games this season, though that number is inflated due to the lack of Montreal puck possession.

His takeaway and giveaway numbers are comparable to Scandella. However, Chiarot averages almost five extra minutes on the ice, meaning he is still less likely to turn the puck over per shift.

The Blues don’t need Chiarot to be a minutes eater, but he’s proven he can do it. He averages just over 23 minutes played and has over 1100 minutes this season.

Scandella has 787 minutes played in 45 games going into March. Even if you factor in the handful of games missed due to injury, he’d still likely be lower than the number of minutes played in 49 games in 2021.

If you put stock in the metrics, most of Chiarot’s numbers are better than Scandella too. We’re not talking lightyears, but the Blues only need an upgrade.

Both players log in at 6’3, but Chiarot is bigger and plays a little nastier. That’s what the Blues need in front of their net as other teams have gotten too comfortable setting up shop in front of both Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso.

The one downside of this deal would be that Chiarot is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. At 30, this could be his last big free agent year, so he may look to cash in elsewhere in the summer.

Still, he got a big bump in his last contract, going from $1.4 million to $3.5. While teams need defense, it doesn’t seem like he would be the type of player to get more than around $4 million on a new deal, but I’ve been wrong before.

Regardless, even if you can’t re-sign Chiarot, you’re out from the Scandella contract. It is not now, nor was it ever a bad contract, but it’s definitely depreciating if he continues his current trend.

The Canadiens would likely be interested in this kind of deal because it helps them move pieces. They get something for a pending free agent, they get a tradeable piece in Scandella who might never even suit up in Montreal if they swung a deal fast enough, and they clear out money they will need in the offseason given their own cap issues.

The Blues would receive a bigger, stronger defender that fits what they are currently lacking. He gives them flexibility since he can play both the left and right, though he’s probably more comfortable on the left given he is left handed.

While he’s not a sure fire top-pair defender, he can fit there and would free Parayko to move forward more. Or, you could make Parayko the defensive player with a Torey Krug and have Chiarot help out Justin Faulk on the left.

I’ve never been big on the idea of rental players, but if Chiarot fits, he’s not the type of rental that is going to dismiss St. Louis. If he helps the team make a playoff run, why not just re-sign and stay with a stable organization when you’ve just come from one that went from Cup finalist to one of the worst in the league?

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It may not be the sexy pick, but it would address a need. The Blues don’t really need more goals. They need to keep more out and getting someone who will let his goaltender see the puck in the playoffs would be a big help.