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Will Jere Lehtinen return next season?

Mar 30, 2010, 11:55 AM EDT

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Lehts.jpgJere Lehtinen’s long, underrated career is coming to a close. The
Finnish right winger who exemplified defensive hockey for so long will
be 37 next season, and is currently playing on a one-year, $2.5 million
contract ($1.5 million base, $1 million in bonuses).

He’s had to
deal with injuries the past few seasons as his once reliable body has
started to break down, but there’s no question he still has the
leadership and skill needed to help teach a young team that defense is
just as important as offense.

If you’ve seen the Stars this
season, then you know that’s a lesson they need pounded into them.

Stars
coach Marc Crawford, for one, is hopeful that Lehtinen decides to come
back next season. From
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:


“I
think
Jere is still a very, very good player,” Crawford said. “The
guys who are smart players, who are hustling players, you don’t lose
those abilities. He has skating and instincts, and that just makes
him such a crucial player for us.

“He’s
terrific for teaching, he’s terrific to put on a line with young
players. We could actually use a few more players like him.”

It’s
not just a matter of whether Lehtinen wants to return; it’s also
whether general manager Joe Nieuwendyk sees him as a needed asset next
season and what he’s willing to pay. If $1.5 million was the contract
this season, then I’m guessing we’d see Nieuwendyk offer nothing more
than $1 million; after all, Lehtinen has just 3 goals this season and is
far from the 30+ goal scorer he was just a few years back.

Lehtinen
has played his entire career in Dallas, and I’m certainhe wants to join
Mike Modano as finishing it with the Stars as well. Just don’t expect
any decisions to be made anytime soon.

“We’ll talk in the
summer, but I can tell you that I am a big fan of Jere Lehtinen,”
Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk
said. “When he’s in the game, I think we’re a better team.”

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