The Montreal Canadiens season is now no longer all about competing for a playoff spot, it’s simply about competing. In the week of January 17-23, 2022, the Habs played four games on the road, racking up a record 1-1-2, which was perhaps their best week of the entire season. They’ve played a more competitive style of hockey, however, and the question of whether even this minimal competitive hockey game will be met for the rest of the season as they’re clearly on their way to earning a lottery pick.
Lehkonen On the Block
As the season continues, many Canadian players will be showcased in hopes of gaining more interest from rival teams and maximizing their commercial values. However, one player does not need much to display as striker Artturi Lehkonen is already expected to attract attention.
Lehkonen currently plays on a one-year contract worth $2.3 million and will become a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) this summer. This leaves a year out of the team’s control with the player having arbitration eligibility with a qualifying bid of $2.3 million (which the player does not have to sign, and will retain his RFA status for the parent club), commensurate with his current salary and salary. . While it’s not a guarantee that it will be transferred by the March 21, 2022 trading deadline, there may be an offer General Manager Kent Hughes cannot ignore.
Lehkonen’s defensive skills made him a highly valued player. His projected goals for (xGF) of 59.67% leads the Habs and shows that he has stuck to his style and performance consistently despite the terrible season that Montreal has endured. As a restricted free agent, the club retains control for one more season. Add that to the value it provides as a third liner that can act as a shutdown and add value to the kill penalty.
Lehkonen’s trade value
It will be tough to replace his role as a defensive winger, but with the growth in Jake Evans and Ryan Boehling’s two-way games at the center, is that necessary? No, while Lehkonen is helping the Canadians’ roster, with winger players like Jesse Ylonen and Raphael Harvey-Pinard showing they’re capable of the NHL, the depth is there so Hughes isn’t interested in replacing a third-line wing on his short-term roster.
However, in a team that needs a PK upgrade and an overall upgrade for its front group, Lehkonen would be an excellent choice. He’s a player who doesn’t need low maintenance because you know what to expect of him on every shift. But have rival teams paid a price for this type of player in the past which would suggest that Hughes would make a good enough return to entertain the idea of trading someone coined and developed by the Canadians?
Looking at similar players moving in the last two seasons of Stanley Cup repeat champion Tampa Bay Lightning, GM Julian Presbyoa used first-round picks and prospects to build his third-in-line streak that made a difference, when counted, in the playoffs. He earned New Jersey Devils Blake Coleman for Nolan Foote (Tampa’s 2019 first-round pick) and 2020 Vancouver Canucks first-round trade JT Miller.
Also, he used Tampa’s 2020 first-round pick and uncut defensive man, Anthony Greco, to the San Jose Sharks for Barkley Goudreau. If Hughes is offered a first and/or high-profile opportunity, he is more likely to make the trade.
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New York Rangers interested
The New York Rangers’ interest in Lehkonen has already been reported. They’ve been looking for improvement in their last six set, and with an end-of-season injury to Sammy Place, that would make sense.
Arthur Stiple reports from The Athletic:
“…sources have told The Athletic that Drury and its former boss, Jeff Gorton, the Canadian chief operating officer, have been in touch regarding Laconon. Talks are believed to be preliminary.”
-Arthur Staples (How to Fix the Rangers Front Range: Internal Solutions, Plus Trade Objectives for the First Six, Third Line, and Fourth Line, Arthur Staible, Athletic, Jan. 13, 2022)
Rangers already hold their 2022 first-round pick, which holds value as the draft will take place in Montreal this summer. Also, GM Chris Drury has a host of possibilities that might interest Hughes and the Canadians executive vice president Jeff Gorton, who was the former Rangers general manager. However, the Rangers reportedly made a bid with Arizona for Jacob Chicheron’s services.
If such a deal occurs, it could result in the withdrawal of an asset that Hughes will determine as necessary to accept Lehkonen’s trade to the Rangers.
Dark horse suitable for Lehkonen
Tampa Bay is a team in a battle for first place in the Atlantic Division with their rival Florida Panthers. For Lightning, scoring is not an issue because they are third in the NHL with 147 goals in 43 games, giving them an average of 3.42 goals per game. However, defense is a problem as they are 18th in goals allowed with a score of 120. PK also needs to improve because it is near the middle of the league, 13th overall, with a success rate of 81.1%.
That should indicate that Presboa is likely looking to upgrade his squad defensively, and with Plulin’s side with a very good four positions, the biggest impact on his club is to focus on an area where he’s had great success in doing so. In retrospect, his third offensive line, suggesting someone like Laconan is as fit as Barkley Goudreau.
He immediately improved their Halls Six and brought some of the same style to the third streak that led them to the Stanley Cup twice in a row. Brisebois still has his core collection to build on and has a history of adding retrieval and foreclosure screening players who complete them. Also, Lehkonen’s defensive skills would instantly improve their kill unit. Adding it to the squad will also significantly improve the overall front depth. But Tampa Bay is against the salary cap and you will need to transfer the same amount of money they bring in. The Canadians could help by keeping 50% of Lacon’s contract for this season, which means TB will need to find $1.15 million to either trade to Montreal or give up the list, which could affect the value of any trading return.
As the trade deadline approaches, Hughes will need to start making decisions about who is willing to trade outside of Montreal and who fits his vision as a fast-paced possession player. At the age of 26, will Laconan be able to maintain his effectiveness as the team approaches that vision of contending for the cup? Probably not, and with so many players emerging who could play for the NHL roles, if Hughes can get a payout for Lehkonen that can help improve the odds pool, he should make that trade and allow Lehkonen a chance to earn a bigger contract as a free agent while playing. on the competitor.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW writer. For over 7 years, he has been a part-time journalist and podcast host covering the NHL, Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has appeared on many television and radio stations as well as podcasts discussing Canadians, and the NHL. Blain has learned the lessons of integrity, morals, values and honesty he learned as a veteran in the Canadian Armed Forces for 28 years and applied them in his work as a journalist to guide him in informing his readers and his goal of being trusted. A source of information and entertainment.