Two UFA Defensemen That Might Interest The Columbus Blue Jackets This Offseason

By Dan Greene on June 8, 2022 at 10:15 am
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin skates with the puck around Florida Panthers defenseman Ben Chiarot in the third period in game three of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Back in May, our own Coby Maeir identified two defensemen that could be potential trade targets for the Blue Jackets this offseason. 

However, with over 22 million in cap space, before resigning any more of their own restricted free agents (RFAs), Columbus may look to bolster its defense on the unrestricted free agent (UFA) market. 

Despite setting a franchise record for the most goals allowed in one season, the Jackets do have several key young pieces on their blue line. Though, the operative word is young, as many of them have three or fewer years of experience. D-men are typically slower to develop than their offensive counterparts and often need several seasons to come into their own.

The Blue Jackets could potentially benefit from one or two tough, seasoned veterans on their defense in order to strengthen the unit and mentor the younger guys as the team looks to build toward playoff contention. Here are two UFAs who might be of interest in doing just that for the club in the 2022-23 season and beyond.

Ben Chiarot

The left-handed defenseman was brought into the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline this year, to help them make their title run. While that run may not have turned out how they would have liked, Chiarot delivered with his production. While he is not known for his offense, he did set a personal best with 26 points this season.

His offensive production was a pleasant surprise, but his true calling card is his staunch defense. At 6-foot-3 226 pounds, the Hamilton, Ontario native is a force to be reconned with. Over the years he has learned how to leverage his size and reach in order to stop opposing attackers, whether it's through putting them into the boards or swiping the puck. 

Having just turned 31 years old, he can bring that veteran presence the Blue Jackets so desperately need, while still being young enough to play at a high level. And coming off a season where he played in 74 games, health is not too much of a concern either.

This season, he posted the second-highest marks of his career in blocks and hits with 130 and 157 respectively, as well as tying his career-high with 20 takeaways. Also, while playing with the Panthers, he had a Corsi For % of 53.6, showing that when playing on a team with good offensive output, he could help them control the puck.

Chiarot would be best suited to play on either of the top two lines, opposite of a more offensive-minded defenseman. With a modest AAV of 3.5 million on his last one, his new contract shouldn't break the bank. Although, with Florida's cap situation this offseason, it will likely be with a new team, perhaps Columbus.

Josh Manson

Another defenseman that was traded to a potential cup contender at the trade deadline and is now a UFA, is Josh Manson. However, his team is still in the race as they are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals. Also, he may be harder to pry away from his current team, the Colorado Avalanche, due to them being in a much better cap situation than the Panthers.

Nevertheless, let's take a look at the right-handed defenseman out of Hinsdale, Illinois. He actually has quite a few similarities to Chiarot; Manson is less than six months younger than the Panther's defenseman and is almost the same size at 6-foot-3 218 pounds. He is also known as a defensive stopper that will contribute sparingly on the offensive end, having posted just 16 points this past season.

Again, he is very similar to Chiarot, the main difference is that he is considered by most to strictly be a second line guy. However, he has played on the second line for the Avalanche, who, as previously mentioned are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals, so he should be able to slot into the second line for any team that would sign him. 

While his average time on ice (ATOI) did dip a couple of minutes when he was dealt from the Anaheim ducks to the Avalanche, his ATOI has held steady during the playoffs, showing how much the avalanche has relied on his solid defensive play during their march toward the Cup. He has posted six points, 33 hits, and 16 blocked shots through 14 playoff games so far this postseason.

With a 4.1 million dollar cap hit this past season and turning 31 soon, his next contract should also be affordable. The Blue Jackets may want to take a look at Manson as well.

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