Ah trade deadline. It’s like Christmas time all over again for hockey fans. For some, fans want to see what piece(s) their favourite team will add in order to give them a better chance at winning some games in the playoffs. For other teams, like the Montreal Canadiens, it’s a matter of deciding who to keep and who to trade, and what the return will be. This in order to provide some hope that next season will be better.
There are numerous names circulating in trade rumours in Montreal and some will, for sure, be wearing a different uniform past March 21st. For others, it’s all speculations. Ben Chiarot, Mathieu Perreault, Brett Kulak, Chris Wideman and Cedric Paquette are pending UFAs and if the Canadiens get value, they are all likely to be gone soon. But we have heard the names of Mike Hoffman, Jeff Petry, Christian Dvorak, David Savard and… Artturi Lehkonen as well.
In high demand
Lehkonen is an interesting one. Relatively inexpensive at $2.3 million, the pending restricted free agent (with arbitration rights) is having an excellent season, his best since his rookie year when he scored 18 goals. The 26 year-old has 10 goals, 13 assists for 23 points in 51 games so far, all while being his physical and defensively reliable self.
“I know at least three teams that are begging the Montreal Canadiens to get Artturi Lehkonen.” ~ NHL Insider Frank Seravalli
In trade rumours, he has recently been linked to the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings, amongst others.
NHL Insider Frank Seravalli has mentioned in several occasions that Lehkonen is this year’s version of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow trade deadline acquisition. You will recall that the San Jose Sharks traded Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a prospect (Anthony Greco) and a first round pick. The New Jersey Devils received former 1st round pick prospect Nolan Foote and a first round pick for Coleman.
If the Canadiens can get that type of offer for Lehkonen, I’m not so sure that they will be able to pass on this opportunity to maximize the return on their winger. Also, there are a lot of rumblings around Washington about a possible trade with the Canadiens, with Lehkonen and goaltender Ilya Samsonov as center pieces. The 25 year old Samsonov was a first round pick back in 2015.
There is no doubt that the Canadiens don’t feel like they need to trade Lehkonen. But they do need to shed some salary cap and the Finnish winger will be looking for a substantial raise. He won’t have to look far to find comparatives as countryman Joel Armia signed a contract extension with the Canadiens just a few months ago, a four year deal with a cap hit of $3.4 million.
Further, his production is similar to the two players Seravalli mentioned as comparables in Coleman and Goodrow. Coleman recently signed a 6-year deal with a cap hit of $4.9 million with the Calgary Flames, with a no-trade clause. Goodrow also recently signed a 6-year deal, with a lesser cap hit of $3.64 million with the New York Rangers with a modified no-trade clause.
Those are the types of comparatives that Lehkonen’s agent will be looking at for his client. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be doing his job.
So the question is… Would you be willing to give Lehkonen a long term deal at around $4 million per season? Or would you prefer keeping this money and spend it elsewhere, while getting a good prospect and a first round pick in return? As much as I love and appreciate Lehky, I know what I would do.