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.
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?