The last stretch hasn’t gone exactly according to plan for the Washington Capitals, who are reportedly seeking upgrades in net and on the forward lines with the NHL Trade Deadline roughly one month away. And for Washington, they could have an asset waiting in Montreal: Artturi Lehkonen.
Trade speculation between the Capitals and Canadiens heated up on Thursday, as RDS reported that the Habs inquired about goaltender Ilya Samsonov’s availability. And to add to that, the Caps had a scout at Bell Centre for the Habs’ Thursday tilt against St. Louis.
The Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Washington could be looking for a “jack-of-all-trades” forward, and named Lehkonen as a “near-perfect stylistic fit.” And looking at the situation in Montreal and continued rumors, No. 62 could be a realistic target for the Capitals, and he’d be a good fit with the roster, too.
Through 46 games this season, Lehkonen has seven goals, 20 points and 88 shots while averaging 14:34 minutes a night. He is currently third on the Canadiens in scoring. The 26-year-old is a left-hand shot who can play on either wing. He has good offensive acumen and is great at stickhandling, and he isn’t afraid to enter battles, either. Plus, he can generate scoring chances and backcheck efficiently and plays a consistent style with a good attitude and known identity. He also logs time on the penalty kill, averaging 2:13 minutes shorthanded per game.
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In his rookie campaign back in 2017-18, the Finn had a career-high 18 goals. He has not been able to reach that mark since. However, he has been on a struggling Habs team that currently averages a league-worst of 2.20 GF/G.
Right now, Washington needs secondary scoring. The fourth line has been stepping up of late and Joe Snively has been a great addition to the top-6, but the team still needs its third-line wingers to chip in. Lehkonen could provide a spark and also benefit from a change in scenery.
Lehkonen is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-22 campaign. He carries a cap hit of $2.3 million, and with Montreal having 11 other pending RFAs, the Canadiens would likely be open to a deal, though it won’t come cheap.
Of course, if Montreal wants Samsonov, then the Capitals would have to also find another answer or name in net. Goaltending has been an evident issue this season, and Pheonix Copley and Zach Fucale have not yet shown they can be full-time NHL netminders. And with the playoffs looming, Washington may want a proven veteran who can play with consistency.
So, for the right price, Lehkonen could be a good option for D.C. However, a 1-for-1 for Samsonov won’t cut it unless Washington has a backup option. Seravalli also mentioned that names like Vitek Vanecek, Michal Kempny and the 2022 first-rounder could be on the table.