Kent Hughes must have repeated the same thing at least 20-30 times over the past few weeks when teams kept checking in on Artturi Lehkonen.
“We don’t want to trade him, you need to blow us away,’’’ the Canadiens GM told team after team to the point where he started to sound like a broken record.
The price had to start with a first-round pick or prospect equivalent. Plus another asset, he told teams. And Hughes never flinched.
Maybe because he’s a rookie NHL GM, there were teams hoping and thinking the price would soften as we got closer to Monday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
Not one bit.
The Canadiens were more than happy to keep Lehkonen if nobody paid the high price.
The Avalanche finally bit, sending over 2020 first-rounder Justin Barron plus a second-round pick for Lehkonen, a pending RFA. It was a sizeable return.
Problem is, Hughes had to inform his coach of it. By all accounts, Martin St. Louis was absolutely crestfallen when the GM informed him of the trade. He’s only been behind the bench six weeks but St. Louis had grown to really appreciate what Lehkonen brought to the table.
All of which is the same reason I think we will look back after the Stanley Cup playoffs and laud the Avalanche for the Lehkonen pickup. I predict some big playoff moments for the forward, who has no cheat in his game.
Overall, it was an impressive deadline period for Hughes and his boss Jeff Gorton. They turned Tyler Toffoli, Ben Chiarot, Lehkonen and Brett Kulak into two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fourth- and a fifth-round pick, three prospects and a roster player.
There’s still so much work to be done. Moving Shea Weber’s contract to Arizona, as had been talked about, would have been the cherry on the sundae but that ship sailed when Winnipeg turned the trick instead, dealing the contract of injured Bryan Little to the Coyotes.
So, opportunity lost there.
But as far as opening acts go, new management in Montreal has signaled its ability to read the market and begin the re-tooling of this roster.