Tag: Derek Roy

Jori Lehtera

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


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?

Blues aren’t asking Stastny to be ‘Superman’

Paul Stastny

No matter what they say, the St. Louis Blues obviously expect big things from Paul Stastny after signing him to a four-year, $28 million contract.

Still, the Blues would be wise to temper expectations regarding the American center after he experienced years of criticism while carrying a big contract on a bad team. It seems like the Blues brass are aiming to find that right balance, as the Belleville News-Democrat reports:

“We were not asking anyone to come in here with a cape on and be Superman,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. “We’re just looking for another strong piece to the puzzle that can keep us competitive. Both [Stastny and Jori Lehtera] can make their wingers better.”

“We haven’t had a true center iceman with top-end passing skills and I think both of those guys can find their wingers. Obviously I’m betting a lot of money that we’re more difficult to defend to today than we were two days ago.”

Stastny, 28, is now four seasons removed from his point-per-game peak. Expecting offensive fireworks on that level could be quite dangerous. People increasingly stand up for Stastny when you consider his ability to handle tough defensive assignments while generating about 50-60 points, which will surely score points with defensive-minded head coach Ken Hitchcock.

Does that mean that Stastny will probably be a little overpaid in the eyes of many, especially those who only look at goals, assists, points and other simple stats? Probably, but the Blues won’t complain if he can help them battle the many elite centers populating the often-brutal Western Conference.

If nothing else, he needs to be a significant upgrade over Derek Roy.

Welcome back: Benning inks multi-year deal as Vancouver GM


Jim Benning is officially on his way back to Vancouver.

The former Canucks defenseman — who played with president of hockey ops Trevor Linden  — has agreed to become the 11th general manager in Vancouver franchise history, per TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Benning, 51, has spent the last seven seasons serving as Peter Chiarelli’s assistant in Boston and prior to that, worked as the director of amateur scouting in Buffalo (he also served one year in Anaheim’s scouting department). Benning was lauded for his success at the draft table with the Sabres, chiefly responsible for the club selecting the likes of  Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, Daniel Paille and Dennis Wideman.

Per Dreger and Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy, Benning will be introduced as the new Canucks GM on Friday.

Inheriting the gig from outgoing GM Mike Gillis — who was dismissed six weeks ago — Benning will have plenty to do over the next short while. He needs to find a new head coach to replace John Tortorella and also begin working on a strategy for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, set for June 27 in Philadelphia, in which Vancouver holds the sixth overall selection.

Benning will also have three key RFA contracts to negotiate — Zack Kassian, Jordan Schroeder and Chris Tanev — and could be active in the trade market, with the likes of Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler rumored as potential targets.

Report: Canucks to name Benning GM this week


Vancouver’s new general manager search will reportedly come to an end this week.

Boston assistant GM Jim Benning will be named as the Canucks’ new man in charge, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. The news comes more than six weeks after the club dismissed Mike Gillis as GM and hired franchise legend Trevor Linden as president of hockey operations.

The Benning hire makes sense on a number of fronts. One, he and Linden spent five years playing together in Vancouver and the move would continue in the theme of bringing ex-Canucks into the managerial fold. Two, Benning has the scouting experience and acumen Linden is reportedly seeking in a new GM — prior to joining the Bruins, he had great success as the head of amateur scouting in Buffalo, selecting the likes of Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, Daniel Paille and Dennis Wideman.

Per the Bruins website, Benning has assisted GM Peter Chiarelli in a number of areas since taking the post in 2007, advising on player evaluation, trades and free agent signings.

Assuming Benning is released in time for the draft, he’ll have plenty of work to do. Vancouver has almost all of its picks this year, including the sixth overall selection.


Spezza to the Blues?

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 18: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 18, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Senators 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We only ask, because according to Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest, the St. Louis Blues are high on Jason Spezza’s list of allowable trade destinations.

Per CapGeek, Spezza has a modified no-trade clause where he can submit to the Senators a list of teams to which he’s willing to be dealt. The 30-year-old center has one season remaining on his front-loaded contract — with a cap hit of $7 million, but a salary of just $4 million in 2014-15 — before he can become an unrestricted free agent.

The Blues do make sense as a potential trade partner, given their offensive struggles against the Blackhawks in the playoffs, plus the fact play-making center Derek Roy is a pending UFA and didn’t seem to be a great fit in St. Louis anyway.

That said, general manager Doug Armstrong made it clear after his team’s disappointing first-round exit that he wasn’t keen on “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in a trade, and that he didn’t think there was “a 31-year-old or 32-year-old veteran player that’s going to come in here and reinvent the wheel for the St. Louis Blues.”

Which doesn’t sound like a GM that’s ready to give up a ton for a veteran like Spezza, and that’s without even mentioning Spezza’s lengthy injury history.

PS — If you’re wondering where all this Spezza trade speculation came from…