TSN Insider Darren Dreger just confirmed that Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen is now in play leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. Dreger took to TSN 690 this morning to voice that general Manager Kent Hughes was working the phones yesterday afternoon, and he believes another deal is imminent.
“I know Kent Hughes was busy yesterday afternoon, right up to puck drop,” said Dreger regarding Hughes’ busy day. “I feel another piece is going to drop soon, maybe as early as today.”
Dreger then took to Twitter to state that the asset in question that could be moved is none other than veteran winger Artturi Lehkonen, who is slated to be a restricted free agent after this season. Dreger believes the Canadiens are weighing his value to the team in conjunction with the potential trade returns that are being proposed to them by interested teams.
Arturi Lehkonen is now the piece in play in Montreal. High interest in the 26 year old forward. Decision time for the Canadiens. He could help the Habs for the next 4-5 years. His value to the team being measured against his trade return.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 18, 2022
Timing is Key
Hughes must tread lightly here, as Lehkonen is the type of player championship teams trade for to put them over the top, and to replace him might not be as easy as some believe. On the flip side, Lehkonen’s value has never been higher, and his game has been at its peak over the last two months leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. Any trade involving Lehkonen is likely the maximum value the Canadiens could ever hope to get for their two-way winger, and Hughes has said in the past that he’s in the business of selling high and buying low.
“For sure there’s some players that are playing great hockey right now,” Hughes during yesterday’s press conference following the Ben Chiarot trade.”But if the question is whether or not we would sell high on another player who’s doing well? What we’ve learned over the last little while is that the room is strong. We obviously have to evaluate things moving forward, we have to consider the dynamic in the room.”
If the deal is too good to pass up and includes a return similar to that of Blake Coleman in 2020, a 1st round pick and a top prospect, then the Canadiens must consider the deal very carefully, as that may be too rich a return to pass on. Lehkonen is a coveted player across the league, and Hughes may not be inclined to give him the payday he rightfully deserves over the next 18 months. That being said, Hughes will ultimately decide whether or not Lehkonen is more valuable to the club’s long-term success than the packages presented to him. Like the Chiarot trade, he will make a timely decision if the offer is right.
Other Moves On the Horizon?
Hughes also hinted at trying to relieve his Salary structure during his press conference yesterday. He believes that it’s been an impediment for them to make any sweeping changes at this junction. With a flat Salary Cap that is only projected to increase by $1M for the next couple of years, the Canadiens would do well to offload some contracts that are currently hindering them.
“The thing we’re looking at is our room under the Salary Cap and seeing if there’s any move to give us more flexibility,’’ said Hughes during yesterday’s press conference,
The Canadiens have not been shy in their desire to move Jeff Petry, as it would make sense for all parties involved, but there are also the cases of players like Joel Armia or Christian Dvorak who earn $3.4M and $4.45M respectively, according to our friends at Puckpedia. Although it may be wise to hold on to Dvorak to see how he performs under new head coach Martin St. Louis, Armia could undoubtedly be a player the Canadiens try to move before the NHL Trade Deadline.
Needless to say, it doesn’t look like Hughes is done working the phones just yet.