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Frei: Artturi Lehkonen joins his fellow Finn and friend, Mikko Rantanen

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Artturi Lehkonen

Artturi Lehkonen arrived at Family Sports Center early Tuesday afternoon as the Avalanche’s optional practice was winding down, and immediately began trying to match new teammates’ names to faces.

The Avalanche acquired the 26-year-old Finnish forward Monday from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for prospect defenseman Justin Barron, who had been playing with the AHL Colorado Eagles, and a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

Early on, though, Lehkonen spotted a fellow Finn — Mikko Rantanen.

“Mikko’s pretty much the only one I know from the past,” Lehkonen said a little later. “We’re from basically the same hometown [Turku], so it’s nice to see a familiar face. I’ve known him since we were kids. It’s quite exciting.”

Lehkonen said he and Rantanen even had been teammates at times as kids.

“Mikko was one year younger than me, so he played ith my age group and I played with an age group higher,” Lehkonen said. “But there were tournaments when we played on the same team. I know him pretty well. We skate every summer together, see each other every week.”

Lahkonen was in his sixth season with the Canadiens when new GM Ken Hughes called and awakened him from his pregame nap — the Canadiens were to face the Bruins in Montreal that night — and broke the news.

“It was kind of weird emotions basically,” Lehkonen said. “I’d never gotten traded before. It was exciting, but then it was like, ‘What do I do now? I have to start packing.'”

At the time of the trade, Lehkonen had 13 goals and 16 assists in 58 games this season for the Canadiens, and he is playing under a one-year $2.3-million deal.

He also is coming off a surprising run with Montreal to the Stanley Cup Finals against Tampa Bay a year ago. He had the series-ending Game 6 overtime goal in the Cup semifinals against Vegas.

“It was like a French-Canadian holiday over there,” he said. “So I guess it was a special goal. It was the biggest goal I’ve scored in my career. It was pretty cool.”

He said that run to the Cup Finals — a run the Avalanche hope to better — was instructional.

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“It’s not easy to get to the Stanley Cup Finals and it’s a long run, a long time that you have to play great hockey,” he said. “I just tried to learn from it last year basically and get another chance this year.”

His trade to Colorado on deadline was part of Joe Sakic’s desire to strengthen his bottom six forwards heading into the stretch run and post season. At 5-11 and 179, Lehkonen isn’t intimidating, but has a physical impact.

“I just try to bring my own-style game,” he said. “Be good at both ends of the ice. Kill Penalties. And pretty much do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Lehkonen can be a restricted free agent after the season, and the trading of Barron raised some eyebrows.

“Well, it’s the cost,” said Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, “and if we’re going to move a guy like Justin Barron, it would have to be for somebody with term and not just a rental. So we feel we accomplished that.”

The Avalanche face the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday night as the post-deadline transitional process continues.

One factor that has nothing to do with trades is that veteran defenseman Ryan Murray suffered a broken hand in the Monday night win over Edmonton. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar Tuesday said Murray will be out “weeks, not days.”

Adrian Dater on the Lehkonen trade and the other Avalanche deals in advance of the Monday NHL trading deadline.

Terry Frei (terry@terryfrei.com, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html

His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here

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ricoflashback

Nice article on Lehkonen. I think he’ll be a great addition for the Avs. Really sad news on Murray. He’s been playing well for the past couple of weeks and hitting his stride. At least it happened now instead of during the playoffs. And a note to Bo Byram. Get healthy and get right – physically and mentally. But just like in the movie Hoosiers – “Ollie, Ollie (Bo) – we need you now!

Aaron Rud

Murray was somewhat the odd man out with the new additions. My guess is that this really solidified that.

ricoflashback

Girard is the odd man out. Petit homme is surefire disaster in the playoffs.

Last edited 3 months ago by ricoflashback
Karl Keen

I wish Girard would be the odd man out, but I doubt it once he is ready to return. If Murray and Manson could have established a solid duet over the next few weeks then possibly, but we will unfortunately be stuck watching Girard try to endlessly and unsuccessfully poke check the puck away from Stone in the first round.

ricoflashback

Well, this will tell me all I want to know about Joe Sakic. As much as he’s built an incredible team with superb draft choices and roster moves, it took until this year to acknowledge the need to get bigger, tougher and more physical while playing better team defense. It’s still a work in progress getting everyone to buy in on this team. Having Girard on “D” is like playing with a hand tied behind your back. But Joe’s stubborn. What really scares me is that if he inserts Girard for the playoffs, he’s willing to lose. I’d take MacDermid,… Read more »

dk

MacDonald appears to be healthy now. But Girard will be in the line-up, so…

ricoflashback

Depressing.

shoresy

Show yourselves Girard defenders! I just don’t see the upside with this guy. Bring on the down-votes.

Bob Neal

I’ve always been with Rico on this opinion and gave you a plus too shoresy. I sure don’t see the value in Sammie’s style of play during the playoffs. He was being heavily targeted by the other teams prior to being hurt. This will only intensify during the playoffs.

dk

Yan’s been kinda scarce lately. Rico thinks he was in jail in Ottawa…

Bob Neal

I saw him the other day on commenting on an older column, so I doubt he is in jail but he does seem to be distracted from his appointed duties.

ricoflashback

You’re right on that. There is no Internet access allowed in any Provincial or Federal prison in Canada Canadian Inmates Connect and other similar dating sites do not advertise to inmates directly, they allow friends or family incarcerated in a Federal Institution to contact the site on the prisoner’s behalf.

But – he could have dictated it with his permitted 20 minute phone call.

ricoflashback

Shoresy – – I throw your name in and any other Girard supporter in the hat for a geniune, “Le Minnow” Girard jersey.

Last edited 3 months ago by ricoflashback
dk

I know. I really want to like Girard. He has flashes of brilliance and then he gets checked hard off the puck and I’m like, oh, right…

Adam Manter

I haven’t watched a lot of Canadiens games but from the things that I am hearing about this kid I like. Wouldn’t hurt to have another forward that can be a defensive presence. Not a fan of moving Barron but Sakic has earned the benefit of the doubt for me.

gimmepuck

Having watched more than a few Canadiens games over the last 24 months (and beyond), I would say his addition has real potential. Lhek can be very good on the third line with a good forecheck and decent finishing for a 3rd line guy. He’s not big, so he’s not a heavy forecheck, but he is quick to the puck. That said, he can also disappear at times and not be a factor in the flow of games, even if his adv stats look good (😀). Motivation and involvement with him will be the key to squeezing the best juice… Read more »

gimmepuck

Side note, the Habs were a complete offensive mess under Ducharme so there is potential for him to flourish in the Avs run and gun style of play.

Last edited 3 months ago by gimmepuck
ricoflashback

Agree. I have no idea on what the Canadiens are doing. They’ve acquired a bunch of draft choices that will take a long time to pan out and who knows if they will be successful. Lehkonen is the type of player that adds a lot to your roster. And, in the prime of his career. But maybe they thought they couldn’t re-sign him. If that’s the case, then who wants to play for Montreal? If you can’t sign quality players that are already on your roster – – what’s the point? A continual rebuilding process? Makes no sense.

Last edited 3 months ago by ricoflashback
gimmepuck

Now that Gorton is running the show, IMO it will turn around pretty well. Bergevin made some horrific moves from coaching to scouting to contracts that really hurt the franchise over the longer term.

That, and the franchise was living in the past, still operating with an Original 6 mindset – no Skills Development coaching staff or Analytics personnel (not that I’m a fan of a Dubas-run-by-spreadsheet approach either). That’s just crazy stuff.

All that said, lots of kids in the Northeast would still love to pull that sweater on.

ricoflashback

I have no question that lots of kids in the Northeast would still love to put on a Habs jersey. What Montreal achieved last year was phenomenal. A fabulous playoff run. But you don’t build a winning team by trading players in the prime of their career, like Lehkonen, and expect to replace them easily. Besides an oft injured player like Carey Price and his $10.5M albatross through 2025-2026, Montreal has now traded valuable assets in the hopes of drafting replacements. Do you know how long that takes and the amount of skill and luck to make that happen?

gimmepuck

No argument here. I think it’s age matching more than anything. Most of their young guys are really young, and Barron and other accumulated young guys will be their new core in 3-4 years if all goes well. Wouldn’t be surprised by more similar trades in off season of guys over 25/26 yo. And taking back 4-5m of Price’s contract can make him much more movable. Gorton has a chance to do it right. Bergevin’s mistake was constantly making moves thinking he had a true contender, leaving them looking like a weird patchwork quilt rather than a whole cloth team.… Read more »

ricoflashback

Hey – I’m a huge fan of the original six and the Canadian franchises. There ain’t nothing like “Hockey Night In Canada” – – one of the greatest, long running shows about the sport. And I’m rooting for the Canadiens to get better for their fans and city. The Avalanche had a young, promising guy once named Ryan O’Reilly that they let go. Maybe you’ve heard of him. One of the worst mistakes the franchise ever made. Not that Lehkonen is a Ryan O’Reilly – – but he’s the type of player that you keep around and build on. Not… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by ricoflashback
Donald Victory

Need a copy editor?

“Mikko was one year younger than me, so he played ith my age group and I played with an age group higher,” Lehkonen said. 

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