We’re inching closer and closer to the NHL’s trade deadline and rumours are swirling around many teams. Especially the Montreal Canadiens. Despite Bergevin stating he wouldn’t be busy, he went out and acquired Eric Staal from the Buffalo Sabres. He then signed top prospect Cole Caufield to an entry-level deal, which has everyone asking the same question. Where do these players fit into the lineup? Because of this, rumours have swirled around the team on players who could be moved out in order to make room for the newcomers. This includes forward Artturi Lehkonen. However, despite the amount of depth the Canadiens have in the bottom six, moving Lehkonen would be a mistake for the Canadiens.
The Montreal Canadiens Shouldn’t Trade Artturi Lehkonen
Lehkonen has found himself in and out of the Canadiens lineup this season. He has appeared in 24 of the Habs 33 games this season, and because of his stints as a healthy scratch, fans are wondering what the future holds for the 25-year-old Finn. However, it’s not in the best interest of the Habs to let go of the feisty Finn.
Lehkonen is a Swiss Army Knife
The biggest reason not to let go of Lehkonen is that he is what many would refer to as a ‘Swiss Army Knife’. He does it all for the Canadiens. Lehkonen can contribute on both ends of the ice. He has hit double digits in goals every year since entering the league and scored 18 in his rookie season in 2017-18. Despite not hitting that total since he is still a solid depth scoring option.
Lehkonen is also very responsible in his own end. He gets back the ice and provides excellent support for his defence and has the ability to read plays before they happen. This helps him clog the lanes while defending in his own end, helping keep the puck out of his net. This translates on the penalty kill as well, making him one of the top penalty killers in the Habs lineup.
His work ethic can also not be matched (except of course by teammate Brendan Gallagher). Lehkonen works extremely hard on both ends of the ice, going into the corners and winning puck battles and using his speed to beat his opponents to loose pucks. Lehkonen rarely takes a shift off, and it’s because of this work ethic that makes him such a valuable piece of the Habs lineup.
Thinking About the Cap
While the Canadiens are hard-pressed for cap space right now, making Lehkonen the sacrificial lamb would not be the best way to save some money. His $2.4 cap hit makes him one of the cheapest depth options the Canadiens have. While of course players like Corey Perry and Jake Evans come in cheaper, Lehkonen still makes just $2.4 million per season. Not a bad cap hit for such an effective player. He comes in $200,000 less than 27-year-old Joel Armia and $1 million less than soon-to-be 32-year-old Paul Byron.
Given his pending RFA status and the role he plays on the team, he will likely command quite a bit less than Joel Armia who is set to become a UFA at the end of the season. While the Canadiens will certainly like to improve their roster and move out cap in the process, Lehkonen should be one of the last to go of the players who might be in play.
The Canadiens are likely going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. One of the main reasons being because of their depth up front. Artturi Lehkonen is a huge piece of that and has proven during his two playoff appearances that he raises his game to another level once he’s there. Lehkonen has three goals and eight points in 16 career playoff games. He proved to be one of the Canadiens’ best forwards during their last two playoff appearances and surely would do the same again this season.
Some players strive for playoff hockey. And you want those players who are willing to go the extra mile for their team on your roster. Lehkonen is one of those players. His feisty style of play is something that the Canadiens would certainly miss if they moved him prior to this year’s deadline. As well as his penalty-killing abilities. With how much the Canadiens struggle on the penalty kill as it is, moving one of their top penalty killers wouldn’t serve them well in the playoffs.
Teams are Interested in Artturi Lehkonen
In saying that, there are teams interested in Lehkonen. And rightfully so. He’s the 200-foot type of player teams are striving to add to their lineup. Francois Gagnon of RDS recently mentioned during an RDS broadcast that the St. Louis Blues had interested in Lehkonen. The Colorado Avalanche were rumoured to be interested in his service prior to last year’s deadline. So surely, there are other teams calling about his availability.
However, if Lehkonen were to get traded, it would need to be a trade that makes the Canadiens better today. Something that would fill a current need for the team. If the Canadiens could make a deal for a mobile puck-moving defenceman, then sure, they’d have to pull the trigger. Someone like Vince Dunn from the Blues comes to mind. Even if the Canadiens had to add a pick to the deal, that would be a deal that would make sense from the Canadiens standpoint. Lehkonen should not, however, be used as a way to just dump some cap. He’s far too valuable to the Canadiens roster, and if they move him without getting a solid player back in return, they will surely regret it.