Canadiens News & Rumors: Lehkonen, Petry, Gallagher & More

In this week’s Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors rundown, we’ll break down yet another wild week in Montreal. Despite not playing a single game last week, there was no slowing down the rumor mill with several trade rumors swirling around some Habs veterans and a threat to take the NHL entry draft away from Montreal.

Difficult Decisions Upcoming for Gallagher

With the uncertainty surrounding the direction general manager Kent Hughes will take the Canadiens in the coming months, questions about 29-year-old veteran forward Brendan Gallagher are swirling. Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette sat with Gallagher and shared that the forward isn’t certain what the future holds for him with the Canadiens.

“For me as a hockey player, winning has always been the most important thing and you can’t turn that off, that said, being a Montreal Canadien is pretty important to me as well.

-Brendan Gallagher (From ” Future with Canadiens is uncertain for Brendan Gallagher”, The Montreal Gazette, 29/1/22)

With five years remaining at $6.5 million per season to his six-year deal, coupled with Gallagher’s 100% all-out effort on every shift, age and style of play are going to be a factor in any long-term plans the Habs hold for him. He will have value on the trade market, but not likely until this summer. The question for Hughes will be if he holds more value as a veteran leader on the team or as a trade chip.

Lehkonen’s Value

There have been rumblings around the league for a few weeks about teams inquiring on the services of Artturi Lehkonen. Arthur Staple of The Athletic reports

“New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury and Jeff Gorton have been in contact regarding Lehkonen. The talks are believed to be preliminary”

(From “How to fix the Rangers’ forward group: Internal solutions, plus trade targets for the top 6, third line and fourth line”, The Athletic, 13/1/22)

For any team in search of an upgrade to their penalty-killing (PK) units and an overall upgrade to their third line, Lehkonen would be a perfect fit. He is a low-maintenance player that provides a consistent effort and style on every shift. Contending teams have paid the price for this type of player in the past, namely Tampa Bay Lightning with the Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman trades in the last few trade deadlines. This would suggest a return of at least a first-round pick, something Frank Seravalli confirms:

“I believe Artturi Lehkonen, if the Habs decide to part ways, is in the first-round pick category.”

Jordan Binnington, Artturi Lehkonen, Jay Bouwmeester,
Montreal Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen moves in on St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington as Blues’ Jay Bouwmeester defends. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Suppose Hughes does part ways with one of the few draft and development success stories in the last 10 years for the Canadiens’ development system. In that case, it will take that high a return to make it palatable to the fan base, even if it would make sense from a cap structure or rebuild plan point of view to make the move.

Petry on the Block

Jeff Petry is open to being traded as Pierre LeBrun reports on TSN Insider Trading. He also makes it clear that Hughes will not trade him on a discount either. This makes sense considering Petry is one of a handful of defencemen that have had more than 40 points per season over the previous four seasons. His two-way play was also essential to the Canadiens’ run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

“One league source suggested a scenario to me today that the Dallas Stars could emerge as the team with interest. With the idea being that if the Stars move John Klingberg”

-Pierre LeBrun

Related: Canadiens’ Trade Destinations for Jeff Petry

But what’s Petry’s value? Currently, he is playing as he did in his final days with the Edmonton Oilers. Former Habs GM Marc Bergevin got him at a discounted price because of that reason. However, just as it happened once he left Edmonton, what is being seen in his play will not be what the gaining team will see. It’s clear that he has been disinterested in his play recently, with the poor outcomes on the ice and having his family living in Michigan due to COVID regulations.

The good news for Canadiens fans is that Hughes has the luxury of time to move Petry. He can wait for the off-season to build a larger pool of interested teams. If he can achieve that, at that point, he can pull the trigger on a deal that can be beneficial to the player as well as the team.

Bettman Threatens to Take Draft away from Montreal

In his All-Star Game Weekend address, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman touched on several points affecting the league. One, in particular, is the NHL Entry Draft, scheduled for July 7 and 8, and could be moved out of the city if COVID restrictions remain as strict then as they are now.

Originally, Montreal was to host the 2020 NHL Draft, but that was canceled due to the pandemic. Since then, both the 2020 and 2021 drafts have been held remotely, this summer’s festivities were to be the first in-person draft event since 2019 in Vancouver. Quebec has recently removed some restrictions but has been one of the stricter Canadian provinces with their regulations.

This announcement could be seen as a direct shot at the provincial government, however, Quebec hasn’t let business, tourism, or economic decisions be part of their overall approach to COVID. Agents, draft-eligible players, and their families will spend the next few months in limbo, wondering if they will be allowed to return in person. Meanwhile, Canadiens fans will be left to wonder if they will get to see the first pick in the Hughes era, in a year when they may even get the first overall pick for the first time since the 1980 draft.

As the Canadiens roster begins to look like an NHL team as players return off the COVID protocol lists, the NHL season continues, keep an eye on our THW Podcast Network for all your hockey needs. As well as THW’s affiliated podcast Habs Unfiltered for the latest Canadiens news, notes, and rumors.

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