Artturi Lehkonen continues to improve business value
The Montreal Canadiens head into the trade deadline as clear sellers. The only question is, how much of the team is up for sale?
The Habs began to eliminate some veterans for picks and prospects when Tyler Toffoli was traded to the Calgary Flames, along with a first-round pick, and Emil Heineman headed to Montreal as the price of the deal.
Pending unrestricted free agents like Ben Chiarot, Mathieu Perreault, Brett Kulak and Chris Wideman should be dealt with next. But what about restricted free agent Artturi Lehkonen?
League teams would love to have this guy on their roster. He is an exceptional penalty killer and a terrific defensive end who can play on both sides of the ice. His defensive acumen was never in question, but his offensive ceiling was constantly watched by Canadiens fans.
Lehkonen played his first NHL season in 2016-17 and scored 18 goals. Most people in the hockey world thought he would become a regular winger with 20 goals each way.
But the offense never came.
This rookie season of 18 goals is still a career high and the most points he has had in a season is 31. Lehkonen is unlikely to score more than 18 goals this season, but he scored his 8th and 9th yesterday tonight and now has 22. points in 50 games. He’s on pace for 36 points, which would be the most offense the 26-year-old has provided in a single season.
Considering he’s still mostly used in a defensive role with the likes of Jake Evans and Rem Pitlick, his increased offense comes as a welcome surprise.
It would also make him an even bigger attraction for the competing teams.
Lehkonen is making $2.3 million over the salary cap this season. The Canadiens could keep half and trade him for a $1.15 million player.
What team that’s about to embark on a quest for the playoffs wouldn’t want an elite defensive end who scores roughly half a point a game on the worst offensive team in the league and comes to cheap?
Barclay Goodrow was traded from the San Jose Sharks to the Tampa Bay Lightning two years ago for a first-round pick. Goodrow had eight goals and 24 points in 62 games at the time of that trade. Lehkonen already has more goals and is just a few points short of that production in 12 fewer games.
Could the Lightning offer another first-round pick for a formidable third-row and penalty-killer like Lehkonen? With offense added to his game this season, it should come as no surprise if the Canadiens can land a first-round pick of a Stanley Cup contender in exchange for Lehkonen.
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