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Lehtera to center Schwartz, Tarasenko; will be ‘contributing factor’ for Blues

Jul 3, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

Jori Lehtera AP

Doug Armstrong is high on Jori Lehtera.

The Finnish center, who’d previously turned down St. Louis’ overtures before inking a two-year, $5.5M deal on Tuesday, is finally a member of the Blues — and, according to Armstrong, will be an impact player for the club.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The Blues have already penciled [Lehtera] in to center Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, who played with Lehtera in the KHL during the NHL lockout in 2012-13. 

“He’s a big body, 6-2, 210 — very, very soft hands, a very good passer,” Armstrong said. “He’s a guy that can find players. I watched him at the World Championships give some guys some back-door tap ins on the power play. He’s just an offensive players where his strengths are his passing skills.

“Having the opportunity to watch him play at the Olympics firsthand, watching all his games at the World Championships, talking to people I know from the Finnish Federation, there’s very little question he’s ready to step in and be a contributing factor in the NHL.”

For all the talk of center upgrades in Anaheim (Ryan Kesler) and Dallas (Jason Spezza), it’s tough to argue anybody had better improvement than the Blues, who made another splash on the opening day of free agency by landing Paul Stastny.

Put it this way: In last year’s opening playoff round against Chicago,St. Louis was at one point going Alex Steen-Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Maxim Lapierre down the middle, with Derek Roy shifting between wing and center (when he wasn’t a healthy scratch). With these latest moves, the club can now boast Stastny, Lehtera and Sobotka as its top three centers, with Steen and Berglund doing the flipping between the middle and wing.

It’s a big upgrade to be sure, one that had Armstrong already dreaming of line combinations for next season.

“[I'm thinking of] a scenario where Paul plays with Steen and (David) Backes,” he explained. “That gives us quite a bit of strength on the wing, on the size with Backes. And then you have  Berglund with Sobotka and maybe (T.J.) Oshie as another line.”

Sounds pretty good, huh?

  1. bcsteele - Jul 3, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    Love it. If they can enter the playoffs healthier than last year and Elliot steps up I’d say the Blues can get over the hump. If either or both of those issues arise we’ll be out in the first round…again.

  2. rsl22 - Jul 3, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    So does that mean Berglund is on the block for a winger? $3.7MM for a 4th line center seems steep.

    • bluesrawesome - Jul 3, 2014 at 4:34 PM

      Bergy isn’t a 4th liner he’s a 3rd liner.

  3. sigep316 - Jul 3, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    If Berglund stays he will play wing again. Hitch played him there a lot last year and had some of his better games. He is better suited on the wing. If Rattie makes the team out of camp Blues could finally have the playmakers to get the puck to the scorers, and the scorers that can bury the puck! Looking forward to October.

    • beepbeepbeeplgb - Jul 3, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      don’t forget about the Swedish transfer Lindstrom and i also expect Jaskin to get some play as well. with cracknell gone, porter will probably get the bulk of the AHL to NHL minutes as well. I’m liking this a lot. the blues will be very deep at forward again this year but with less old grizzled vets.

      • stevedurbano - Jul 3, 2014 at 8:11 PM

        Lindstrom will be a non-factor- if he makes the team (doubtful) he would be the oldest forward on the team. After 2 failures in the NHL I don’t see this time panning out with all the talent on this team.

  4. phtjoey - Jul 3, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Hmmm! Is this the beginning of the end for Lapierre in STL?

    • cardsandbluesforever - Jul 3, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      probably not. we like Lappy, but not because he goons it up. during the playoffs he was in the middle of the play and constantly going after the puck on just about every shift trying to make something happen. that’s exactly what we want out of our players- guys who turn it up a notch or two in the playoffs.

    • stevedurbano - Jul 3, 2014 at 8:13 PM

      No, no, no. His spot is very secure, he brings a different dish to this potluck.

  5. bluesrawesome - Jul 3, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    If Steen is healthy and has good chemistry with Stastny I think Steen could have a 40 goal season

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