ST. LOUIS — The Blues made a big splash in free agency on Tuesday morning when they signed center Paul Stastny to a four-year contract.
The St. Louis native, 28, was one of the biggest prizes available on the free agent market and was believed to be returning to Colorado, where he spent the entirety of his eight-year NHL career.
Stastny’s deal is reportedly for four seasons at $7 million annually, which makes him the Blues’ highest paid player per average annual value. Alex Pietrangelo is next at $6.5 million per season, followed by Alexander Steen at $5.8 million.
The son of former Blue and Hall of Famer Peter, Stastny has been a consistent performer throughout his NHL career. He accounted for 71 points or more in three of his first four seasons and racked up 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) in 71 games for the Avalanche in 2013-14.
In 528 career NHL games, Stastny is averaging 0.85 points per game.
The 6-foot, 205-pounder, who was teammates with David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk on the U.S. Olympic team in Russia, gives the Blues either a No. 1 or No. 2 center, depending on where coach Ken Hitchcock chooses to play Backes, the team’s captain.
Wherever he slots into the lineup, Stastny adds an offensive force to a Blues club that has proved lacking in punch during its back-to-back first-round playoff losses to Los Angeles and Chicago the past two seasons.
St. Louis got another upgraded at the center position with Finnish skater Jori Lehtera on Tuesday.
The Blues opened the free agency period by signing Lehtera, their third-round draft pick in 2008, to a two-year contract.
Lehtera, 26, has yet to play in the NHL. The Finland native spent the past four seasons in Russia’s KHL, including the past three years with Novosibirsk Sibir. He was a teammate and linemate of Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko in 2011-12.
The 6-2, 195-pounder, who shoots left-handed, has been a good scorer in the KHL. He had 44 points (12 goals, 32 assists) in 48 games last season, had 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) in 52 games in 2012-13 and had 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 25 games in 2011-12.
The center played for Finland during the 2014 Winter Olympics and helped his side earn the bronze medal with a win over the United States. Lehtera had two assists in the 5-0 win in the bronze medal game.
Lehtera’s deal was reported by FOX Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland to be for $5.5 million over two seasons.
The Finnish center likely takes the spot of unrestricted free agent center Derek Roy, who signed a one-year $4 million deal last offseason but only accounted for 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 75 games with the Blues.