With the NHL Trade Deadline just a week away an NHL source has confirmed to Montreal Hockey Now the numerous reports that the New York Rangers are interested in Montreal Canadiens winger Artturi Lehkonen.
The Rangers had a pro scout in attendance for the Canadiens’ 4-3 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday night but unfortunately for them and the Canadiens, the Habs winger was a last-minute scratch due to an upper-body injury. Lehkonen appeared to be dealing with some kind of injury during the pregame warmups.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) March 14, 2022
However, while that Rangers scout was unable to watch the 5-foot-11, 179-pound winger perform, the aforementioned source confirmed that the Rangers have been keeping an eye on Lehkonen for the better part of the last month. This game was likely the Rangers putting the final touches on the trade target board a week before the NHL Trade Deadline.
“I know they like him a lot so not being able to scout him Sunday probably doesn’t matter too much,” the source told MHN during the game Sunday night. “They need someone on the right side in that middle six and the game he plays would fit in great with their style.”
Over the last month, Lehkonen has attracted plenty of interested scouts to Canadiens games and become a constant in NHL trade rumours. Prior to going pointless in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Seattle Kraken on Saturday, Lehkonen had three goals and two assists in four games, including two goals and an assist in a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks last Wednesday. Lehkonen has 13 goals and 15 assists in 55 games this season.
As my partner-in-scribe at MHN write recently, if new Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes does plan on trading Artturi Lehkonen, then this may be the ‘optimal time’ because his trade value may never be higher. As for the Rangers and what they could offer in return or who the Canadiens may be interested in?
“I know [Filip] Chytil has been out there and I heard his name a lot earlier in the season,” the source told MHN. “He’s big, talented, needs a change of scenery in my opinion.”
However, the reason the source or anyone hasn’t really heard Filip Chytil in NHL trade chatter lately is because, as reported by New York Post hall of fame scribe, Larry Brooks on Saturday, the Rangers and center Ryan Strome aren’t even remotely close to getting talks going on an extension for Strome. That uncertainty with the center position could cause the Rangers to hold onto the 22-year-old, 6-foot-3, 210-pound pivot who is finishing off the first year of a two-year contract that carries a $2.3 million cap hit.
With Lehkonen up for arbitration and having a career year, he’s likely due a hefty pay raise from the $2.3 million cap hit his contract carried this season. Unless they have contingency plans to free up cap space before the NHL Trade Deadline, where the Rangers stand in their plans with Strome over the next week will likely determine if they’re players for Lehkonen and other players on the market as the days wind down.