As the Montreal Canadiens continue to falter in 2021-22, now last in the Eastern Conference and leading the league in goals allowed, a fire sale seems imminent for the franchise. As pundits across North America discuss who could be moving on from the Habs, a story has emerged from TVA’s Renaud Lavoie about one potential candidate who was nearly moved last season. Lavoie reported on their air on Saturday that the Canadiens and St. Louis Blues had a deal in place for forward Artturi Lehkonen at the deadline, which would have seen Sammy Blais go the other way. However, a condition of the deal was an extension for Lehkonen, then an impending restricted free agent, and the restricted free agent refused to agree to a new contract with the Blues, nixing the trade. The 26-year-old ended up re-signing for just one year with Montreal this summer and will be an RFA once more this off-season. However, it seems more and more unlikely that he will be negotiating with the Habs once again, as Lehkonen’s scoring is up from last season, making him an attractive trade piece for the Canadiens. Although Blais is now a member of the New York Rangers, the Blues could still be a suitor for Lehkonen with a different offer if they can make the cap implications work. The forward could be seen as a rental or as a long-term investment which should provide a deep pool of potential trade partners for the new front office administration in Montreal.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets could be forced to make a significant roster move later this season, but hopefully it does not come to that. The Finnish government released a list of names this week that included professional athletes who had not completed their required military service. All male citizens of Finland are conscripted to serve a certain number of days – 165, 255 or 347 days depending on the assignment – of military service and must meet this requirement between the ages of 18 and 28. Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo turns 28 this spring and has yet to complete any of his required service. Korpisalo tells The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline that he regrets putting it off, but he has had his in-season obligations every year since he was 18 and never wanted to disrupt his off-season training schedule in the summers. The Finnish government stated that those athletes who had not yet met this civic duty would be enlisted to begin service on April 11, 2022. Well, Columbus’ regular season does not end until April 29 and the team currently sits just one spot outside of playoff position as well. Korpisalo’s response to the possibility of missing time because of conscription: “If they want to come get me, come get me. I’m not leaving during my season.” Hopefully it doesn’t reach that point for Korpisalo and the Jackets, but it does seem like the goaltender at least plans to serve his time this summer. He has little choice as the Finnish government will not renew his passport if he does not complete his required service before turning 29, making it impossible for him to travel to North America let alone play in the NHL. This is especially concerning for Korpisalo this summer, when he will be an unrestricted free agent. While the veteran keeper expects that a “special arrangement” will be made that allows him to complete his current season, serve his time in the off-season, and be ready for next season, wherever that may be, the last-minute nature of the situation could still prove problematic. This likely isn’t the last we have heard about Korpisalo’s military requirements and its impact on his playing career.
- Ilya Mikheyev appears to be getting closer to a return to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup. The Hockey News’ David Alter reports that both Mikheyev and defenseman Travis Dermott will be evaluated on Tuesday for a potential return against the Edmonton Oilers. Getting the skilled forward back from Long-Term Injured Reserve will be a nice boost for the Leafs, but it of course raises questions as well. Toronto is currently $4.9MM over the salary cap, but this is permissible given the LTIR usage afforded by Mikheyev and Mitch Marner. However, once Marner is healthy as well, a roster crunch will set in for the Leafs if no more extended injuries have arisen. Even if no one is on injured reserve at the time and the likes of Alex Steeves and Kyle Clifford have likely been bumped from the roster to accommodate the additions up front of Mikheyev and Marner, the team will still be over the salary cap. If the Leafs want to carry the full 23 skaters, they will need to save room for at least a minimum $750K contract too. This could result in a notable player being traded or waived in order to become cap compliant. For a number of bottom-six forwards, the return of Mikheyev is a warning and they have until Marner returns to prove that they belong on the team or else could be the one forced out of town.