Wednesday, March 31, 2021. 3:29 PM
BROSSARD, Qc – Despite a long attack shortage over the past few seasons, Artturi Lehkonen was still with the Canadiens as coach Claude Julien had no complaints about the rest of his game.
The situation is different this season. It’s not that Lehkonen is worse off without the puck, but rather that the Habs’ depth on offense gives the coach different options.
Julien ended up withdrawing Lehkonen from training before being fired, late in February. Since Dominique Ducharme took over behind the bench, Lehkonen has played only seven of the Canadiens’ 14 games.
“You want to play every night. It’s not very good for confidence when you spend a lot of time watching games, ”Lehkonen said on video conference Wednesday.
Lehkonen, however, had reason to regain confidence following a strong offensive performance in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers. The 25-year-old Finn had one goal and one assist, amassing his first points in 14 outings.
In 23 games this season, he now has three goals and three assists.
“We like the whole of his game, what he brings in shorthand, his speed, his good habits. He’s working the right way, Ducharme said. We see offensive potential in him. It paid off for him (Tuesday). In his case, it’s a matter of trust. “
Lehkonen has sometimes served as a handyman under Julien’s orders, even securing playing time on a few occasions with the best offensive elements of the team. This season, he has spent the majority of his time on the fourth unit, due in part to the arrival of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli.
General manager Marc Bergevin has hammered in recent weeks that he has no leeway under the salary cap to carry out transactions. If he managed to acquire Eric Staal by convincing the Buffalo Sabers to withhold half of the veteran center’s salary, he will likely need to sacrifice a current roster if he wants more. reinforcements.
Paul Byron, Joel Armia and Lehkonen are three players who could be included in a trade if Bergevin ever decides to pull the trigger.
Lehkonen has an impact of US $ 2.4 million on the payroll of the Habs, Armia, $ 2.6 million and Byron, $ 3.4 million.
Will Lehkonen leave before the deadline?
With less than two weeks to go before the April 12 trading deadline, and with his name in the rumor machine for the first time in his career, Lehkonen claimed that was not what was going to keep him awake. .
“I try not to read anything about it,” he said. It doesn’t help to stuff my head with that. I focus on my game. ”
“It’s part of the job,” Ducharme added of the transaction rumors. He wants to be on the ice, that’s normal. He wants to contribute.
“The most important thing is to focus on what you control. This is what he currently does every day, ”he concluded.
The injury to Toffoli and the absence of Armia due to a positive control for a variant of COVID-19 bought Lehkonen some time to prove himself again. It is up to him to take the opportunity to force the hand of his trainer to keep him in the training.
Between two matches: rumors about Lehkonen
Will Lehkonen be traded?