With the deadline for arbitration fast approaching, the Habs took care of one of their arbitration-eligible RFAs as they re-signed Artturi Lehkonen to a one-year, $2.3 million contract.
Lehkonen has been a regular in Montreal’s lineup for the last five seasons but has never been able to duplicate his rookie-season production when he had 18 goals. Since then, his goal output has dipped and last season, it went to a career-low seven tallies in 47 games which had him considered as a trade candidate around the deadline and also landed him in the press box at times.
That carried over to the playoffs although Lekhonen was able to work his way into the lineup in the Toronto series and aside from a brief injury, he never looked back. He spent a lot of the postseason in a checking role and managed just four points but one of them was critical as he scored the series-winner over Vegas to send the Habs to the Stanley Cup Final.
Worth noting, the cap hit for this deal will actually be lower than the one he had last year which was $2.4 million. The fact they slightly front-loaded his contract allowed for a lower qualifying offer of $2.2 million so Montreal saves a bit of money on this deal relative to a year ago.
Montreal has only one full-time NHL player left to re-sign in Jesperi Kotkaniemi who isn’t arbitration-eligible so Lehkonen’s deal was understandably the priority. Their current roster projects to be around $2.3 million over the salary cap before factoring in the fact that Shea Weber will be heading for LTIR and that Paul Byron is eligible to be placed there as well. That should give GM Marc Bergevin ample space to re-sign Kotkaniemi and still have a bit of wiggle room to try to add another piece either at centre or on the back end.