Montreal wasn’t going to move Artturi Lehkonen unless they got a deal they really liked and they found one as the winger has been moved to Colorado for prospect defenceman Justin Barron and a 2024 second-round pick.
Lehkonen has been with the Habs since they drafted him in the second round back in 2013 and he was in his sixth NHL season. He had come on a bit offensively as of late and has 13 goals and 16 assists on the season in 58 games. Of course, as anyone reading this knows, Lehkonen’s defensive play is where his top value lies. As someone that can play on both wings, kill penalties, and chip in a bit offensively, he has a chance to be a very valuable piece for Colorado.
Worth noting is that Lehkonen is set to become a restricted free agent with salary arbitration eligibility this summer and he appears set to earn a raise on the $2.3 million that he’s earning this year. He’s one year from UFA eligibility which means that if Montreal had kept the 26-year-old, they’d have been looking at either a one-year deal that took him to the open market or a longer-term pact that bought out his prime UFA years but would push the cap hit into the mid-$3 million range or more. The Canadiens are retaining 50% of Lehkonen’s deal this season.
Instead of going that route, the Habs have instead filled one of their biggest organizational needs. Barron is a 20-year-old right-shot defenceman who was the 25th-overall pick in 2020 out of Halifax of the QMJHL. He’s in his first professional season and played a pair of games with the Avs but has spent most of the year in the minors, recording 20 points in 43 games with the Eagles. Barron has two years left on his entry-level deal that has a cap hit of $925,000 plus one Class A performance bonus.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Barron sent to Laval for now where he’d likely have a big role with the Rocket but he should see some NHL action with Montreal down the stretch to evaluate if he’s ready for a regular role with the Canadiens next season.
The Habs didn’t have their second-round pick in 2024 due to the Christian Dvorak trade so this acquisition now fills that hole. Montreal now has one pick in each round for that draft class.