St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera battled through the post-season with an ankle injury, but should be healthy in time to suit up for the season opener.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong announced Monday that Lehtera, 27, underwent surgery on the injured ankle one week ago. The successful surgery will keep Lehtera away from the rink for 6-8 weeks, but that sets his timetable for return at least four days before the Blues’ first game of teh 2015-16 campaign on Oct. 8 against the Edmonton Oilers.
Lehtera was one of the most underrated players in the league this past season and was rewarded for his outstanding play after just one season in the league.
In his debut season, Lehtera scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games. As free agency opened and Lehtera became eligible for a contract extension, the Blues locked him up to a three-year, $14.1 million contract extension that will run through to the end of the 2018-19 season.
Lehtera played primarily in a third-line role with St. Louis in 2014-15, but he has more than enough offensive ability to move up and down the lineup as coach Ken Hitchcock sees fit. Lehtera is also quite defensively sound, making the Finnish center one of the more versatile forwards in the Blues’ arsenal.
Originally drafted by the Blues in the third round, 65th overall, of the 2008 draft, Lehtera spent five seasons playing overseas, including four years in the KHL. Before coming over to the NHL, Lehtera posted a season of 12 goals and 44 points in 48 games with Sibir Novosibirsk while playing more than 19 minutes per game.
Lehtera did have a stint in the Blues organization in 2008-09, joining St. Louis’ AHL affiliate Peoria for 14 games at the end of the season. During his brief AHL tenure, Lehtera managed just one goal and three points.