With NHL Trade Deadline just days away, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning completed a trade that is likely to have direct ramifications on the trade value of Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen over the next coming days.
The Blackhawks sent 23-year-old forward Brandon Hagel and two 4th round picks to Tampa Bay for a 1st round pick in 2023, a 1st round pick in 2024, 24-year-old forward Taylor Raddysh and 24-year-old forward Boris Katchouk, one of the richest deals to go down right before NHL Trade Deadline in recent memory. The number of significant deals leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline has undoubtedly begun to pick up after a very quiet month of March, and a deal like this can certainly alter the way selling teams value their assets, especially players with term or RFA status.
It’s worth noting that Hagel is a more valuable asset than Lehkonen due to his age (23), offensive ability (already at 21 goals) and his contract ($1.5M for two more seasons), but it certainly helps to set the market for third-line players with upside who can play up and down your lineup. Another recent trade for a marquee 3rd-line winger was that of Calle Jarnkrok. The 30-year-old two-way, who’s in the final year of his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent, has similar offensive numbers to Lehkonen, was traded from the Seattle Kraken to the Calgary Flames for a 2nd round pick in 2022, a 3rd round pick in 2023, and a 7th round pick in 2024. Lehkonen being the better overall asset, given his age and his contract status, should thus find his value in between these two deals.
We’ve seen a more significant appreciation than most years in players with term or controlled assets like restricted free agents, evidenced by the Toffoli and Hagel deals. A few teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes have already said they wouldn’t move their 1st round pick for a rental. This positions a player like Lehkonen in a unique setting that could see his trade value spike over the next couple of days.
Lehkonen’s Trade Value
If Artturi Lehkonen wasn’t a hot name on the trade market before Friday, he is now.
Friday morning before the Hagel trade, TSN Insider Darren Dreger took to Twitter to discuss the potential price point that would entice the Canadiens to let go of their veteran winger. Dreger believed the Canadiens and general manager Kent Hughes were weighing his value to the team in conjunction with the potential trade returns that are being proposed to them by interested teams. With the Hagel trade happening a few hours later, the Canadiens’ evaluation just got a little more complicated.
The ask for Lehkonen was already high, reported to be at least a 1st round pick, but the talk was that teams were hesitating to give the Canadiens such an offer. Dreger confirmed the interest in Lehkonen around the league is high, and, with Hagel off the board, it would seem like a 1st round pick or top prospect is simply the base of any viable offer for Lehkonen.
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
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 the Hagel and Calle trades have now set the price point for a player of Lehkonen’s ilk. 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.
Likelihood of a Trade For Lehkonen
TSN Insider Pierre Lebrun took to social media to add to the NHL trade talk surrounding Montreal Canadiens winger Artturi Lehkonen and his chances of being moved before the NHL Trade Deadline. Lebrun confirmed the strong interest in Lehkonen that had been widely reported over the last few days and estimated his chances of moving to 50/50. Lebrun also suggested the price point for Lehkonen: A 1st round pick or prospect equivalent and another asset.
That would be a pretty steep price for Lehkonen’s services, but he’s proven his worth in the playoffs for the Canadiens over the last two years, and his RFA status is bound to make teams more likely to want to give up the assets to acquire him. That uptick in NHL trade market value could likely have increased the likelihood of an eventual trade, as the Canadiens were fully content with retaining their veteran winger.
Feels like a 50-50 proposition at this hour as to whether the Habs trade Artturi Lehkonen (RFA in July) before Monday's 3 p.m. ET deadline. The interest is real. My sense is Montreal's asking price starting with a 1st RD pick or prospect equivalent plus perhaps a second asset.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 18, 2022
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. That process might have gotten a little easier for Hughes after the Hagel trade and will undoubtedly be the talk of the town leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline.