When you think of legendary and noteworthy Dallas Stars, most thoughts turn to the recently departed to Detroit Mike Modano or to goalies Ed Belfour or Marty Turco. One name that doesn’t get brought up too often but should be on the tip of Stars fans’ tongues is Jere Lehtinen. Lehtinen has battled with injuries the last few seasons but he was a staple of the Stars successful teams from the past transitioning from scorer to defending forward seamlessly later on.
ESPN Dallas’ Mark Stepneski did some digging with Stars goalie and Finnish countryman Kari Lehtonen to see what, if anything, was up with Lehtinen.
“I saw him back in Finland and we talked once in a while. He’s a mystery man. No one knows what’s going on,” said Lehtonen, who spent a couple weeks in Finland this summer. “Everybody is trying to push him to come back. He’s one of those guys that everybody just gets energy from. He always gives everything, whether it is practice or a game. Hopefully we can get him back.”
Could the Stars use Lehtinen back if he’s fully healthy? Sure, as long as he was OK with playing on the third or fourth line. Lehtinen has been with the Stars since the 1995-1996 season and he’s as much a part of that team as anyone has been since the team moved from Minnesota. That said, getting playing time won’t be totally guaranteed.
Dallas is loaded with 13 forwards and that’s even before counting in restricted free agent James Neal who has yet to re-sign with the team. With Neal eventually returning and if Lehtinen wanted to come back, some roster juggling would be in order at forward. The Stars don’t have salary cap problems but with their ownership up in the air, they are dealing with an internal budget. A return by Lehtinen would likely come at a reduced cost.