Depth players often become fan favourites. People are usually willing to look past glaring flaws in performance if the player is perceived as being a hard worker with a gritty edge. Ben Chiarot fits this archetype perfectly, a journeyman-caliber defender whose public perception is significantly higher than his true ability. Jets fans have seen Chiarot as a top-4 defenceman ever since he was paired with Byfuglien during the 2014-15 season, but what does Winnipeg truly have in the 27-year old? Is he worth the raise he’ll command in free agency?
In many ways, Chiarot has all of the physical tools to match the profile of a moderately-successful second-pairing blueliner. He’s big, strong, possesses a hilariously overpowered slapshot, and has the frame to clear the crease. Where things come a bit apart at the seams lies in his ability to make higher-level defensive reads. All too often, Chiarot struggles to predict opponent skating trajectory, or makes a decision along the walls that causes a turnover. Because of Chiarot’s size and build, his positioning in front of the net allows him to impede shots against at even-strength. On the penalty kill, where impeccable positioning is a requirement, Ben’s flaws are more easily unmasked.
Chiarot’s size and slower skating stride also mean he’s not able to spring many breakouts. He’s honestly closer to a low-end stay-at-home defender than what people imagine him to be. Like many NHLers, he’s blessed with more than a few physical traits and some raw skills that allow him to carve out a role at the highest levels. The value derived from his contributions, however, is a bit more limited than you’d hope.
In Chiarot’s final year of his contract, he amassed a career-high points total of 20. That’s fairly respectable, but expecting him to match or equal that total is a bit much. Chiarot will likely receive a significant amount of interest in free agency. Teams love big, gritty, shot-blocking types, and Ben’s offensive ability will no doubt drive his contract fee up. He could fetch as much as $3-3.5M on the market, and that’s not tenable for the Jets. It would be best for this season to be Chiarot’s swan song in Winnipeg navy and baby blue.