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 rejected Arturi Leconn’s initiatives in the run-up to the March 21 deadline.
“From the start, Laconan was a player we were looking forward to, and I told Kent we were definitely interested,” Colorado Avalanche GM said on Tuesday. ‘We’ve kept in touch all the way.’
But from a Montreal Canadiens GM’s perspective, I never felt like it was going to be a thing until about 15 minutes from 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.’
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 got a call and said, ‘Okay, I have to pack. ‘But at the same time, it could be another Stanley Cup shot.’
A year earlier, Leconn’s overtime goal against the Vegas team put the lock down in the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. One year later, Leconn’s overtime goal against Edmonton put the 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 in the first round of 2020 with Justin Barron’s pick as well as the second-round pick, Lacon handed some over for the Avs, putting in 11 points (6-5) in 14 playoffs and playing the kind of grinding, two-way game that felt sakic That he would be a valuable ingredient 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 star Mikko Rantanen’s eyes lit up on Tuesday when asked about Likonen.
“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 a matter of 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. You can’t miss it.
Rangers and Cups are believed to be among the other teams that have also inquired about Laconen, but no team has pushed like Colorado.
“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 St. Louis was crushed.
Hughes says the coaching staff were also disappointed to lose Brett Colak earlier in the day on 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 by Artturi Lehkonen Celebration with Logan O’Connor and Devon Toews: Walter Tychnowicz / USA Today)