MONTREAL - Forwards Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia both inked new contracts with the Canadiens on Thursday, and both Finnish men are thrilled that they get to continue calling La Belle Province their hockey homes for another two years.
"I'm happy with the two years. The only thing I had in mind going into this thing was to stay in Montreal," shared Lehkonen, who put up a career-high 31 points last season, on a joint conference call on Friday. "I'm happy to stay in Montreal."
While Lehkonen finished his third campaign with the Canadiens in 2018-19, Armia was getting his first taste of life in bleu-blanc-rouge and he didn't hesitate to sign up for a couple more.
"I'm really happy with the two years. It's pretty much the same as Artturi says," shared Armia, who joined the Habs via trade with the Winnipeg Jets last June. "I'm going to just try to play better every year and see where it goes."
Defensively, Lehkonen enjoyed a breakout year, setting new personal bests for differential (plus-10), hits (120), blocked shots (39), takeaways (46), and total shorthanded ice time (185:49). Still, the 24-year-old would like to see his effectiveness at the other end of the ice continue to grow the same way his defensive game has.
"I know I can still play a lot better than I showed last year. I wasn't happy with my points production, basically, or where my goal stats were at the end of the year," admitted Lehkonen, who still managed a career-high 20 assists to go along with 11 goals in 2018-19. "I know I still have a lot to prove in that sense."
While the third-year forward knows exactly what he wants to improve for next season, Armia - who set a new career high with 13 goals and also scored his first hat trick and first two career power play goals with Montreal - was a little less specific.
"Just play good hockey," he stated matter-of-factly.
With the two countrymen locked in through the end of the 2020-21 season, fans of the all-Finnish line consisting of Armia, Lehkonen, and rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi will surely be hoping for a reunion. Whether that happens or not will of course be up to head coach Claude Julien and his staff, but regardless, KK's fellow Pori native is amped up for what the young centerman has in store.
"I think he's going to do well," Armia said of Kotkaniemi, who put up 11 goals for 34 points in his inaugural NHL campaign. "He's going to get better as a player every year and every day like last season. He took steps every day. I'm excited to see."
Now that their contract situations are resolved, both wingers are setting their sights on the one thing they felt they really missed out on last season: a spot in the playoffs and a chance to compete for Lord Stanley's mug.
"We came so close and we just have to be a little bit better next year and show what kind of team we are and that we can really compete in every game," concluded Lehkonen.
Video: Conference call: Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen