Jori Lehtera won’t be joining the Blues anytime soon.
Or, possibly ever.
The Finnish prospect — a former SM-liiga MVP that’s spent the last three years playing in Russia — has re-upped with KHL club Sibir Novosibirsk on a two-year deal, according TrueHockey’s Andy Strickland.
“At the end of the day he does not want to play in the NHL,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. “We offered him a one-way, seven-figure deal.
“Can’t force guys to want to play in the NHL.”
Lehtera, 25, was St. Louis’ third-round pick (65th overall) at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Since then, he’s only made one trek to North America — appearing in seven games with AHL Peoria during the 2008-09 season — while emerging as a dynamic scorer in both Finland and Russia.
Lehtera finished fifth in the KHL in scoring this year (46 points in 52 games) and became something of a viral video sensation with this shootout goal in the KHL All-Star game:
“We talked to him as soon as his (KHL) season ended about coming over,” Armstrong said. “He was off a concussion. We thought about bringing him over to play this year. It just didn’t work out. We’ve talked to him about what his plans are for the summer and next season.
“We’d like to have him. It’s up to him whether he wants to come.”
Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch said Lehtera was “a strong candidate” to make the Blues next season.
Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.
“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”
Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: