Artturi Lehkonen should be top target of Capitals

Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

A couple days ago I wrote about the likeliest trade destination for Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov. I picked the Colorado Avalanche. I immediately got questions about what the return would be. I thought about it. If I’m Brian MacLellan, I work on making a deal for Artturi Lehkonen.

Lehkonen just turned 28 years old and is coming off a year where he had 21 goals and 30 assists for 51 points. That was a career high season.

The left winger who could slot in for Anthony Mantha or somewhere on the top six was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2013 NHL Draft at 55th overall in the second round. He’s been part of the Avalanche until he was traded at the deadline in March 2022.

He was helpful in the Avalanche’s run to the Stanley Cup that spring as he had eight goals and six assists for 14 points. He also added six points this recent spring in seven playoff games with three goals and three assists.

Looking at the price tag he would only carry a cap hit of $4.5 million. Kuznetsov’s AAV is $7.8 million. Lehkonen would reunite with former teammate Darcy Kuemper.

Because of the Capitals depth at the center position and the strong possibility of Nicklas Backstrom being full go for training camp, it’s OK to swap a center for a winger in this situation.

Backstrom and Dylan Strome can rotate between the first and second line while Connor McMichael can finally get the playing time he deserves at the third line while Nic Dowd rounds it out in the fourth line.

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Adding Lehkonen would give the Caps another threat at forward and if he can score 20 goals or more, it can be a big boost to a Caps offense looking to improve under a new coaching staff. He fits the age range too. Oh and let me add one more thing, this guy is clutch in the playoffs having scored the goal to send the Montreal Canadiens to the Finals in 2021 and the Avalanche a year later in 2022. This might be the best swap we can get for Kuzy.