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Season Review: Ben Chiarot

In a contract year, Chiarot was a capable 3rd-pairing defenseman who’s probably going to be paid a lot more than Winnipeg can afford.

St Louis Blues v Winnipeg Jets - Game Five Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images

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?

Graphics sourced from HockeyViz.com, courtesy of Micah McCurdy. Check out his site for more player visualizations!

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.

St Louis Blues v Winnipeg Jets - Game One Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images

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.