The Rangers have been looking to add to their bottom six group for several weeks now following the season-ending injury to Sammy Blais. It appears that one of the players that they’re interested in is Canadiens winger Artturi Lehkonen as Arthur Staple of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that GM Chris Drury has reached out to Canadiens Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton to discuss Lehkonen’s availability with those discussions being termed as preliminary.
The 26-year-old hasn’t been able to repeat the 18-goal performance he had in his rookie season but has become a reliable defensive forward for Montreal over his six-year NHL career. Like many Canadiens this season, he has struggled offensively, notching just four goals and eight assists in 33 games but also leads all Montreal forwards in penalty killing time.
He would likely have a similar role if he was to be acquired by the Rangers, one that would see him primarily in their bottom six while playing a significant role on their penalty kill, giving them another above-average forward on that front along with newcomer Barclay Goodrow.
While Lehkonen is on an expiring contract, he still has one year left of arbitration eligibility with a qualifying offer of $2.3MM, matching his current cap hit and salary. To that end, this isn’t a situation where it’s a guarantee that he’ll be moved by the March 21st trade deadline. Accordingly, the asking price may be higher than it would be for someone in a similar role that’s set to hit the open market in July.
With ample salary cap space (nearly $10MM per CapFriendly), the Rangers have the opportunity to try to add multiple players over the next couple of months but with pricey extensions already in place for Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad for next season, their cap flexibility will be short-lived. As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Drury also on the lookout for some pending unrestricted free agents in the weeks to come.