The purpose of the trade deadline is to bolster a team to make a run to the Stanley Cup Final. Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic did just that in 2021-22.
Sakic went out and made four deals at the deadline that proved to be hits, as the Avs lifted the 2022 Stanley Cup on Sunday night after defeating the Lightning 2-1 in Game 6, winning the franchise's first title since 2001.
The one responsible for that game-winning goal? Deadline acquisition Artturi Lehkonen.
Making only a couple of smaller moves in 2020 and 2021 resulted in early exits for Colorado. Sakic did not make that mistake again this year.
While the Avs missed out on the Claude Giroux sweepstakes, it allowed Sakic to make a number of different moves, acquiring Lehkonen, defenseman Josh Manson and forwards Andrew Cogliano and Nico Sturm.
All four contributed one way or another in the Avs' path to a Stanley Cup win. Lehkonen's goal is just the latest example, but Colorado would not have gotten where it did without Sakic making these necessary moves to improve the team's depth.
We'll start with the man of the hour. Lehkonen made big play after big player for the Avs, after he was acquired by Colorado in March from Montreal for defenseman prospect Justin Barron and a 2024 second-round pick.
For the second-straight season, Lehkonen sent his team to the Stanley Cup Final. His OT winner in Game 6 last year against the Golden Knights punched the Habs' ticket to the finals, and he did it again this year with the Avalanche. He followed that up with an even more important goal, the game-winner in the Cup-clinching.
Lehkonen, 26, made the biggest impact of any of the four players brought in by the Avs mid-season and had one of the best performances out of any trade deadline acquisition in recent years. His eight goals in these playoffs were tied with Cale Makar for fourth-most on the team. In total, Lehkonen finished with 14 points in 20 games.
Series-clinching goal in the Conference Finals ✅— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 27, 2022
Series-clinching goal in the #StanleyCup Final ✅
Artturi Lehkonen has come up big for the @Avalanche to close out the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. #NHLStats: https://t.co/iZ2ZASnOPC pic.twitter.com/LXB00Iss9o
In addition to his two series-clinching tallies, he had the game-winning goal in Game 3 against the Blues in a two-goal effort, building a 2-1 lead in the series for Colorado.
Given the injuries, the hard forechecking forward bounced around the line combinations, but was a staple in the top-six, averaging 17:06 time on ice in the playoffs. When he played with Landeskog and MacKinnon, their 69.7 percent expected goals percentage is the second-highest on the team out of all the forward line combinations. When he's played with Landeskog and Kadri, their 65.3 percent ranks third.
Lehkonen also finished second among the forward group in blocked shots with 120 this postseason. He carved out a perfect role playing alongside the Avs' stars and as a pending RFA, Colorado will likely do everything to keep him in Denver.
Manson was brought in to solidify the Avs' third pair on defense. While he and Samuel Girard struggled a bit out of the gate, they found their groove before Girard's season-ending sternum injury.
But that hasn't stopped Manson from coming through for the team. Playing alongside Jack Johnson, Manson had three big goals for the Avs in these playoffs after coming over in a trade with the Ducks.
The first came as the OT winner in Game 1 against the Blues. In a game that Colorado thoroughly dominated, the Avs were running the risk of the Blues goalie stealing the game with his sensational effort in net. But Manson ensured the Avs got the victory with his overtime snipe over Binnington's shoulder.
Manson came through again in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final with his goal against the Oilers to extend the Avs' lead to 2-0.
Finally, he made it a 2-0 game early in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Lightning, beating Andrei Vasilevskiy on the blocker side off the rush.
The defenseman's 25 blocked shots were fourth on the team during the 2022 playoffs and his 50 hits were fifth. He was asked to take on a smaller role in Colorado than he had in Anaheim, but he answered the bell.
Cogliano didn't seen a ton of playing time this postseason, partially due to a finger injury. He played in 16 games, averaging 9:41 average time.
But Cogliano made the most of the chances he's had. The veteran forward, who was acquired in a trade with the Sharks, had three goals and three assists, with three of those points coming in the final.
The 34-year-old found the back of the net in the first game of the playoffs, tallying a shorthanded goal against the Predators to give the Avs a 3-0 lead.
It ended up being the game-winner as the Avs won 7-2.
Against the Oilers in Game 6, Cogliano's second period goal that put the Avs up 7-3 didn't seem like much at the time. But Edmonton rallied and that seventh goal ended up being quite important in the eventual 8-6 win.
His third goal came as the game-tying goal in the third period of Game 5 against the Lightning, a contest that Tampa Bay eventually went on to win in overtime.
Cogliano and Helm were the team's top penalty-killing pair in the playoffs. He was an excellent defensive addition to the bottom forward group, adding 12 blocked shots which was tied with Nathan MacKinnon for fourth-most among the forwards.
While Sturm saw action in just 12 playoff games, he came through clutch in his limited time after coming over in a trade with the Wild. During Game 2 of the first-round series against the Predators, Sturm had the primary assist on Cale Makar's OT winner.
That assist helped Colorado gain a 2-0 series lead against the Wild. Sturm also added an assist in the finals on Cogliano's Game 5 goal.
Sturm played all four games against Nashville, but only two in the St. Louis series and one against Edmonton. However with injuries, Sturm played in the last five games of the finals. Having a reliable fourth-line option such as Sturm is what builds championship teams, and he made his impact where he needed to for Colorado.