29-Year-Old Center – Philadelphia Flyers
Jori Lehtera Contract Information:
Signed a three-year, $14.1 million extension with the Blues in July 2015 that will run through the end of the 2018-19 season.
Lehtera, who was traded from the Blues to the Flyers on June 23, has been skating and working out at his former team's practice facility with eagerness for the upcoming season, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
We'll be blunt. Lehtera's fantasy value has been tied to two guys – Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko – and not for great reasons. He has needed the former to be out of the lineup in order to score. And he needed to skate alongside the latter to actually get his points. Ugh. Lehtera is a lovely third-line checker with a slim shot at starting the season hot if Alexander Steen hasn't returned from shoulder surgery. And he won't get ice time with Vladdy, with all the young talent on the Blues squad. Lehtera will ultimately center the Blues third line with Steen and Ty Rattie, and will only get second-line duty if Vladimir Sobotka falls apart upon his return from the KHL. He's destined for 30-to-35 points. Let someone else take the bait.
Lehtera emerged from obscurity as a strong performer for the Blues after spending several years in the KHL, posting 44 points and a plus-21 in 75 games as a rookie. The Blues rewarded the 27-year-old with a three-year contract in the offseason, so he'll be expected to improve in the coming season, especially if he continues to serve at center alongside Vladimir Tarasenko, the young phenom with whom he showed so much chemistry last year. There's some reason to be skeptical about such a big jump from a player his age, however, especially since Lehtera only managed 103 shots on goal, posting a 13.6 shooting percentage that's probably not repeatable. Lehtera's defensive game and ability in the faceoff circle will almost certainly keep him in a top-six role, though, and if he can create some more scoring chances for himself, he has the skill and opprtunity to improve upon last year's totals.
A former third-round draft pick by the Blues in 2008, Lehtera has spent the last several seasons honing his game overseas while the St. Louis organization anxiously tracked his development. After back-to-back 40-point seasons with Novosibirsk Sibir of the KHL, Lehtera, 26, decided to make the jump to the NHL, agreeing with the Blues on a two-year, $5.5-million contract in July. While his lack of experience with the faster-paced North American game makes it difficult to project how well the Finnish forward will transition to the new league, the Blues will attempt to ease the pressure by earmarking him for a third-line role. Given his ideal size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and ability to play both center and wing, Lehtera could ultimately earn a promotion to a top-six role in the event of an injury, and may see time right away on the Blues’ secondary power-play unit. He makes for a low-risk, high-upside target in the end game of fantasy drafts for deeper leagues.
Lehtera suffered a knee injury and was limited to 25 games for Sibir Novosibirsk of the Russian KHL. He was having a productive season before the knee injury and never was right afterward. The Blues would like to see a more complete game from Lehtera, but at this point, he's not in the team's plans.
Lehtera has been burning up the Finnish League (SM-liiga) for the past three seasons and is expected to play in the KHL for Lokomotiv in 2010-11. The Blues signed him to an entry-level contract this summer, in order to retain his NHL rights. He's a gifted puck-handler and passer, combined with a deadly scoring touch -- something the Blues need right now. He's not much in the two-way game and needs to improve his physical play.