Of all the moves that Kent Hughes, Jeff Gorton and the rest of the new regime’s made this season, this one perhaps stings the most. Artturi Lehkonen has been traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Colorado Avalanche for a second round pick and defensive prospect Justin Barron. Lehkonen has been a fixture in Montreal’s bottom six since 2016-17 and has grown a reputation of being a great defender and a hard worker.
And then, of course, there’s the goal.
I am sure that every single Montreal Canadiens fan can remember exactly where they were when Artturi Lehkonen scored the goal that sent the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final. I was draped over the arm of the big armchair we have set up in the living room, maybe about a foot away from the television screen and heart in mouth.
Because right before, this goal almost didn’t happen. The Vegas Golden Knights had won the faceoff, and it went back to Alec Martinez, who absolutely wires it. Montreal was killed by Vegas’ blueline all series, but Carey Price somehow fought it off and the rebound went all the way out to Brendan Gallagher.
Gallagher takes it up the ice and passes to Phillip Danault. Danault splits the two defenders, and slides the puck on a slick back-hand pass to the forgotten Lehkonen, who puts the puck past Robin Lehner. And the entire Montreal Canadiens universe exploded.
It is a play that will be remembered for a long time, and Lehkonen will be a player that the Montreal Canadiens will remember for a long time as well. He fit the mold of the Marc Bergevin style of forward to a T. He could skate, he had the heart of a champion, and the scoring touch of a brick.
Okay, that might be a little harsh, but to be completely honest, I hate Artturi Lehkonen’s offensive instincts.
I don’t know if it’s just me or something I cannot get out of my head, but Lehkonen has one mode in the offensive zone, and that is put the puck on the net. If he has the puck on his stick, more often than not, it is getting flung at the net. At the blueline? In the slot? Outside the dots? At the goalline? Throw it on net.
And there is some small merit to that. Since Lehkonen shoots from the weirdest places on the ice, he can sometimes trick a goalie who doesn’t know that a shot is coming. It is why earlier in his career Lehkonen had a really bad shooting percentage of 7.32% and 6.25%.
It’s okay because Lehkonen makes up for it in so many other ways. He is great offensively. He came in cold to the playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets and was placed on the top line with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher and played fantastic defensive hockey against Winnipeg’s and Vegas’ top lines.
The problem is that he does not fit with the age and style that Hughes and company wants for this team. He is incredibly important on a contender, and might put Colorado over the edge this year, but not so much in a rebuilding team.
Lehkonen’s on pace to beat his season highs in goals and points, and I think he will in Colorado. He is playing for a really good team. As Darryl Sutter, head coach of the Calgary Flames said: “It’s going to be a waste of 8 days [to whoever plays Colorado in the first round]” and its hard not to see why and the addition of Lehkonen only makes them better.
Maybe it was the over inflation, or my own bias of liking Lehkonen a lot that made me a little disappointed in the return, but as time has been removed from the trade, it is looking better than first thought.
The second round pick is a second round pick, and will more than likely be a late one, considering how good the Avalanche are, and that they are still a younger team that hasn’t hit diminishing returns yet. But a late second round pick is still a decent chance at hitting something good. And the pick is in 2024. That is a while away, and we don’t really know what that draft will look like.
The big get is former first round draft pick Justin Barron, who I will admit, I was not the most familiar with before the trade. But just a quick glance at the Colorado Avalanche’s Top 25 Under 25 for this year shows that Barron is at 7th on the list. That is just behind full time NHLers Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, Samuel Girard, Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook and Tyson Jost (who is now a member of the Minnesota Wild).
Barron also probably fell in the draft to 25th overall due to being injured his draft year with a blood clot. Barron has only played 2 NHL games, but it seems that Montreal is willing to give Barron a shot right away at the NHL level before deciding to send him down to Laval or not.
It is sad to see Lehkonen go, but it is nice to see him on such a strong contender, with a good chance of having another deep playoff run. Lehkonen should do wonders to help the Avalanche tighten up in their own zone, and bring that playoff intensity that worked so well with Montreal last year.
But we will always have those memories, and Lehkonen’s goal will live forever in the hearts and minds of every Montreal Canadiens fan. And I hope that Lehkonen has something similar in Colorado.