Blues prospect Lehtera turns down ‘seven-figure deal’ to stay in Russia

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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:

In mid-May, the Post-Dispatch reported Armstrong had been in discussions with Lehtera about coming to St. Louis.

“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.