The Colorado Avalanche has re-signed Artturi Lehkonen to a five-year contract worth an average of $4.5 million per year. GM Joe Sakic made two major moves at the trade deadline with Josh Manson and Artturi Lehkonen and now both will be staying in Colorado for the next four-plus seasons.
Artturi Lehkonen, signed 5x$4.5M by COL, is a hard-working forechecking middle-six winger who elevates everybody he plays with. Has scored some very clutch goals as well... #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/A3xRWGcuoV— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 13, 2022
After scoring one of the most famous goals in the history of the Montreal Canadiens as he sent them to the Stanley Cup Final last year, Lehkonen went right out and did it again with the Colorado Avalanche. Lehkonen had developed a reputation for scoring clutch goals even before his overtime-winning goal to send the Avs to their first Cup final in 21 years, and then he continued his ascent into Colorado hockey lore by scoring the game-winning goal in Colorado’s Cup-clinching Game 6 effort in Tampa Bay.
Unlike Manson, Lehkonen was a restricted free agent so if another team had offered him a contract, the Avalanche would have had the opportunity to match it, so there was no suspense as to whether Lehkonen would be back—the only question was at what price. At $4.5 million per year, it looks like really great value for a player who proved he can play first-line minutes next to Nathan Mackinnon, especially when compared to the $6.25 million per year that Tampa Bay gave to second-line shutdown center Anthony Cirelli.
Anthony Cirelli, signed to an 8x$6.25M extension by TB, is a high-end 2nd-line shutdown centre who makes up for a merely above-average offensive skillset with high-end forechecking and elite defensive play. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/1K4n4DfrMt— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 13, 2022
They are different players in different free agent situations, but it’s clear that in the context of today’s free agent frenzy where players like Robert Thomas received $8 million per year contracts on the back of one excellent season, the Avalanche have signed an incredibly important player to a very affordable contract. According to CapFriendly, the Avalanche now have about $4.6 million in cap space, and they still need to find a second-line center, which should give them plenty of room to sign a solid player like Dylan Strome or for Joe Sakic to pull one of his patented buy-low trades for a player on an affordable contract.