The St. Louis Blues opened up free agency on Tuesday by signing 26-year-old center Jori Lehtera, their 2008 third-rounder, to a two-year, $5.5 million-dollar deal. Lehtera, a 6-foot-2, 191-pounder from Finland, had been playing in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League for the past four seasons. Over 48 games in 2013-14, Lehtera had 12 goals and 32 assists with a plus-minus rating of plus-14.
Lehtera is viewed as a solid two-way player, and he should provide a physical presence up the middle. Presumably, his signing will allow the Blues to move David Backes or Patrik Berglund to wing full-time, and if the Blues sign free agent Paul Stastny or another premium center, they could move both. With all of this addition at the center position, however, it makes you wonder if the Blues will do whatever it takes to retain center Vladimir Sobotka, who is a restricted free agent and could command significantly more money than he made last year.