Ladies and gents, now that the hockey is over for the summer the real action can begin. The kind where hip checks can't be throw, slashes aren't allowed, and a general distaste for commerce can slowly begin. Welcome to the real suck. Who can the St. Louis Blues keep and who must go before the 2016-17 training camp commences? Know this. The Jori Lehtera anchor is real.
The center who gets to play with Vladimir Tarasenko is owed 14 million dollars over the next three seasons. The cap hit for each season is 4.7 million. Digest that for a second before we move on with this column. Need any Pepto? Sprite? A few tums? Well, I do because this contract is sickening when examined closely.
If David Backes doesn't find his way back to St. Louis next season, blame this turd of a contract. Listen, Lehtera is a talented player and doesn't deserve shitty pay but what crawled inside General Manager Doug Armstrong's head and made him think this was a good idea? Three years at nearly five million per? He's close to David Backes money and the Captain is due a raise.
Let's take a look. Lehtera had a great start to the 2014-15 season. The man didn't light the NHL on fire but was a pleasant surprise in his first season. He helped formed the popular STL line with Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. After a great start, his play and production decreased after midseason. It didn't cease to exist but wasn't as prevalent. Overall, Lehtera notched 44 points in 75 games, including 14 goals and a +21 rating. Good enough, right?
This past season, he only scored 9 goals and amassed 34 points in 79 games. The man's health isn't in question. His future production is. This isn't a good trend. He's 28 and skates like he's Patrick Marleau's dad.
The Blues are paying Patrik Berglund 3.3 million to resist underachieving and Bergie's play improved this year. The Blues have a bad knot wrapped around their vault called Jay Bouwmeester that won't let up any time soon. They aren't going to retain Kevin Shattenkirk. Troy Brouwer may or may not be back. Lehtera will and that sucks.
You aren't paying enough attention if you haven't thoughtabout what Tarasenko could do with a legit center. The kid is a superstar in the making but what could he do with a center who has real legit long lasting skill? Paul Stastny? That depends if Brouwer returns. The What If with Tarasenko is real because of Lehtera's regression. Would Tarasenko have gone missing against San Jose with a better center? Just asking for a few hundred thousand people. If you can't benefit from playing with #91, who do you need?
If there is one contract I'd love to shed and put it towards re-signing Backes, it's Lehtera. He's not ancient yet and maybe some team will buy in and even give the Blues something in return. Maybe not. The thought of him spending three more seasons in St. Louis is scary. The anchor is real, folks.
That's all for now. If Backes leaves, blame the Lehtera contract.
P.S.-Backes isn't giving and shouldn't give the Blues a hometown discount. He came up huge during the playoffs and put together another solid season while not getting first line time and for a few games skating with lesser talent. He's also 32 years old. Talent doesn't give discounts.