DETROIT | In Montreal, Ben Chiarot lived his best days with Shea Weber as his blue line partner. For his first steps with the Red Wings, he will have a much younger defender at his side in Moritz Seider, the latest Calder Trophy winner.
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“Seider is not bad,” Chiarot said Thursday with a smile. He is an exciting young defender. It’s easy to play with him, I can quickly read his intentions. I’ve already bonded with “Mo” during camp, but we want to deepen it even more during the season. I will enjoy playing with it for years to come. »
On the eve of his debut in a Wings uniform, the 31-year-old Ontario native had a broad smile on his face. We sensed that he was very happy to reconnect with a trio of journalists from Montreal. Before answering questions, he heard from his former team and stated that he had carefully watched the Canadiens’ 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I’m feverish, it’s the start of a new chapter in my career,” said the colossal defender as he left training at the Balfour Arena. I find myself with an exciting line-up, a team that wants to climb the standings. I will also play for Steve Yzerman [le directeur général], wants to build a winning team. It’s a good time to be back in Detroit, the future is bright. »
“Hard to say no to Yzerman”
After a brief stint with the Florida Panthers, Chiarot took advantage of his unrestricted free agent status to sign a four-year, $19 million ($4.75 million average) contract with the Michigan team.
If the money and the duration of the pact represented two solid arguments, the notoriety of the DG also weighed in the balance.
“Yeah, it’s hard to say no to Yzerman,” he replied. I grew up in the 1990s and Yzerman was a star. We would compare him today to a Nathan MacKinnon or Sidney Crosby. When you get a call from him and he wants you on his team, that’s enough. Cold. He is a good resource for the club, he has gone through several hardships. »
Ben Chiarot chased down Alex Steeves in an exhibition game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs last Friday.
a known plan
Traded by CH GM Kent Hughes to the Panthers for a first-round pick in 2023, a fourth-round pick in 2022 (Cédrick Guindon) and Ty Smilanic, a 20-year-old forward, Chiarot had already raised the possibility. of a return to Montreal. But in the end there were never any serious discussions about going home.
“We talked at the last training camp  with [Marc] bervin [l’ex-DG du Tricolore]. The team had made some offers, but we didn’t agree, he said. The season started and quickly derailed, so it was clear that I was going to leave. There was nothing else this summer. »
In the Wings, Derek Lalonde was delighted with the arrival of a veteran like him.
“Ben is an important addition to our team,” said the new head coach. He will bring important elements for the culture that we want to build. He doesn’t want the puck to go into his net, he plays with a lot of intensity and has playoff experience. He also has better feet than he thought. He will help our defensive game a lot. »
Happy for Xhekaj
Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Chiarot had slipped nice words to Bergevin about another native-born guard from the Tiger-Cats in the CFL. He really believes in the potential of Arber Xhekaj.
“Arber is a great story. He didn’t get a chance to get drafted in any league and now he’s jumping straight up from the youth ranks to the NHL. You can see the tools of him, he is big, he skates and he is hard as iron. He will be good for a long time in Montreal. »
“He came to me at camp last year to tell me he was a student at Bishop Ryan, my high school in Hamilton. So we had this link when we left. I took a closer look at it at camp. He had told “Berg” about him [Bergevin]in “Mell” [Scott Mellanby, ex-adjoint au DG]. I told them: “this young man will be good”. He went back to junior and found success. »
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