28-Year-Old Center – St. Louis Blues
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 (upper body) skated Tuesday and will resume practicing Wednesday, Lou Korac of NHL.com reports.
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Jori Lehtera: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
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.