LeBrun: How an avalanche finally took down Artturi Lehkonen from the Canadians

Denver – Joe Sakic was a dog on a bone and he didn’t give up.

Time and time again, again and again, well, again and again, his counterpart Kent Hughes turned down offers Arturi Laconin In the lead up to the March 21 deadline.

“From the start, Lehkonen was a player we were looking for and I told Kent we were definitely interested,” he said. Colorado Avalanche General Motors said Tuesday. ‘We’ve kept in touch all the way.’

but who Montreal Canadiens From a GM perspective, it never felt like it was going to be a thing until about 15 minutes to go on the deadline.

And this is the impression he conveyed to Lehkonen himself in the run-up to the deadline.

“I remember a conversation I had with him the night before or two before the deadline,” Hughes said over the weekend. “We were leaving the rink and I said, Leakey, are you hanging there? I know your name is all over the place. He said, ‘Yes.’ He never asked me anything. He said, ‘I thought it was none of my business.’

Kent Hughes. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

I said, ‘I can tell you I’m not trying to trade you. We appreciate you. But I can’t tell you I wouldn’t do that either. It has to be a really good thing. I’m sure after 24 hours I called him again to say, ‘I just traded with you.’ ‘

Hughes says he started the conversation with Lehkonen after the deal by saying it was a deal they had to act on and that they would really miss him.

“But then I said, I think there is some good news. Let me ask you: If you were to pick where you wanted to be traded for the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup, where would you want to go?”

He said: Colorado. I said: It is Colorado. ”

Laconon smiled on Tuesday when I retold that story.

“That’s pretty much what happened,” Likonen said during a media day on the eve of the Stanley Cup Final.

“It was definitely a fun day,” Likonen said. “I was just taking a nap before the game and then I got a call and said, ‘Okay, I have to pack. ‘But at the same time, it could be another Stanley Cup shot.’

A year ago, Laconan’s goal in extra time against Vegas Putting a ban on in the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay Lightning. One year later, Lacon’s goal in extra time against Edmonton He placed Avs in the Cup Final against Lightning once again. This time he hopes for a different end result.

‘Sort of like a rematch for me. ‘ ‘I’m definitely excited,’ said Likonen.

Traded for 2020 first round selection Justin Barron In addition to the second-round pick, Lehkonen handed over and then some to the Avs, putting in 11 points (6-5) in 14 playoffs and playing the sort of grind, a two-way game that Sakic felt would be a valuable component to add to his stack.

“We’ve been watching Montreal for a bit,” said Sakic. “And he was definitely on our radar for the type of player we were looking for. He was everything we thought he would be. First of all, a great person. He works very hard. He is very versatile. He can play anywhere up and down your squad.

“He’s got an engine and he’s not shifting shifts. He’s been in great shape. One of those guys, really smart, really competitive, knows who he is. Just love the way he’s competing.

Country man star Miko RantanenTuesday’s eyes lit up when asked about Lehkonen.

“It was amazing,” Rantanen said. “He was really good. I’ve known since he was a kid that he’s always been a player, especially in the qualifiers. With Montreal too, he’s been great. He’s scoring big goals for us, going into tough areas. He’s not afraid of anything even though he’s not the guy.” the biggest.

“And the locker room guy is great, too.”

What’s crazy, again, is how close Lehkonen is to not trading. It wasn’t about Montreal waiting until the last minute to get the best deal out of Colorado. Avs had to improve the show or else Hughes insisted he probably wouldn’t have moved it.

“Joe was very consistent, checking in, and saying, ‘Do you think about this? “I was very consistent in saying no,” Hughes said. “There were other teams that called and inquired as well. I told them it would take a lot for us to trade it. He’s good, he’s young. ”

But at the end of the day, as much as Hughes didn’t want to trade Lehkonen, there was a floor price and if the team achieved it, they would have to move on. For the longest time, the Avs were only willing to transfer one asset – I think Colorado was trying to get a one-for-one Lehkonen for Barron. The clincher came in the last 15-20 minutes before the deadline when Colorado finally relented and reluctantly ceded a second-round pick. So, the Habs group basically got the first (2020) and second (2024) Lehkonen. It can not be missed.

The Notice The Caps are believed to be among other teams that have also inquired about Likonen, but no team like the Colorado has pushed.

“Joe checks it in very regularly,” Hughes said. I was almost embarrassed because I kept saying ‘No’

Hughes hasn’t confirmed this, but I was told at one point that there was a player he asked in Colorado to raise the ante in his conversations with Avs. He got a clear “no” in return from Sakic.

In the end, they found the middle ground. right in the end.

‘Joe did it the right way.’ ‘He kept it alive and in the end it just finished,’ said Hughes.

“He was a guy – if they’re willing to move on, especially not from the NFL, so we’ve had him at least for a couple of years and hopefully more with him, so I think that counts as well – he was a guy we feel a perfect fit,” said Sakic. Now but we are also moving forward.”

Sending news to Lehkonen that he has been dealt with was not easy for Hughes. Neither of them had to tell the coach. Martin Saint Louis was crushed.

Hughes says the coaching staff were disappointed by the loss Britt Colak Earlier in the day the deadline.

“I went down to tell them we replaced Colack and the coaching room was down,” Hughes said. Then I said, ‘Well, the good news is we don’t trade Lehky. “I think we replaced Lehky 15 minutes before the deadline. I went back to my office and Joe called again. And then I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I think at this point we have to do it.'”

“I went back[to the coaches room]and said, ‘I lied,'” Hughes says with a chuckle now.

It’s shaping up to be what GM both feel can really pay off for both clubs.

“That’s what you are looking to do, to have both teams happy. We have given up on the prospect of a very good young man who will play for a long time,” Sakic said of Baron. “But for us, it is about now and (we) also know we can move forward with to be. ”

A bargain, perhaps.

“We are happy with what we got, and glad it turned out to be a success,” Hughes said. ‘And I’m happy for Colorado, too.’

(Photo of Artturi Lehkonen celebration with Logan O’Connor And the Devon Toze: Walter Taichnowicks / USA Today)