Lehtera denies any connection to drug ring; Hextall: ‘No comment’

Jori Lehtera

     VOORHEES, N.J. – As if the Flyers didn’t have enough headaches answering questions about injuries and the like, now they have to comment on events that don’t even pertain to hockey.

     News broke on Wednesday that forward Jori Lehtera had his cottage back in Finland raided last summer by legal authorities regarding a suspected drug ring.

     Reports out of Finland said police confiscated two kilograms of cocaine. Also seized: $700,000 in jewelry.

     Seven people were arrested and 23 in total are listed as “persons of interest.’’

     The 30-year-old Lehtera, who did not attend Flyers’ practice at the Skate Zone on Wednesday, denies any knowledge of what took place. He was not at the cottage at the time of the raid.

     No charges were filed against the player.

     Flyers general manager Ron Hextall issued the following statement after practice: “We have spoken with Jori Lehtera and the league office regarding the reports out of Finland, and will reserve any further comment on the matter at this time.”

     Later, he added: “I don’t have any details so there’s nothing to comment on.’’

     Lehtera, acquired in June, 2017 in the Brayden Schenn trade with St. Louis, is in the middle year of a three-year contract worth $14.1 million.

     He produced just three goals and eight points in 64 games last season.

     Hextall said he isn’t too concerned about the Lehtera situation becoming a distraction for his team.

     “You want to keep a team focused,’’ he said. “So it’s the coach’s job, my job, the players’ job to stay focused on the job at hand. No matter what is going on.

     “We’re going to handle this internally.’’

     Even before this news broke, there was a good chance Lehtera wasn’t going to make the Flyers roster. Pending waivers, he could have wound up with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

     When asked if Lehtera has a future with the Flyers (or is still on the team), Hextall also gave a “no comment.’’

     Injury updates

     Sean Couturier (knee) left Saturday’s practice early and has not been seen in any on-ice activity (with teammates) since.

     Couturier has yet to play in a preseason game and a recent Hextall update had him listed as dealing with “soreness.’’

     “We’re hoping ‘Coots’ plays Saturday (in Boston, the final preseason game),’’ Hextall said. “That’s the plan. But we’re not going to put him at risk. If it’s Vegas (for the regular-season opener on Oct. 4), then it’s Vegas. We’ll go day-to-day and make sure everything is good.’’

     Hextall said he’s confident Couturier will be ready for the game against the Golden Knights.

     As for Wayne Simmonds, Hextall said he’s doing well. Simmonds (pelvis surgery) has yet to play in a preseason game as well.

     “He’s had six or seven real good days now,’’ Hextall said. “I think we expect him to play Saturday.’’

     Simmonds said he’s taking part in every drill in practice but has not yet been cleared for contact (game action).

     Hextall said he’s being conservative with both Couturier and Simmonds.

     “It’s not the time to put anyone at risk,’’ he said.

     Team building activities planned

     While the Flyers are in Las Vegas and Colorado they will take part in some team-building activities.

     They’ve done this sort of thing before, in places like Lake Placid, West Point, Annapolis, Amelia Island (Florida) and Banff (Alberta). But those were not in the midst of scheduled games.

     “We’ve done a lot of things over the years,’’ Hextall said. “You go out and get acclimated to the time change. It’s an opportunity to go out there and spend some time together.’’

     Short shots

     Defenseman Philippe Myers was sent down to the Phantoms on Tuesday. Some thought he had a shot to make the Flyers. “He just didn’t play up to the level he’s capable of,’’ Hextall said. “Sometimes that means a player is not quite ready. We know we’re going to need Phil at some point here.’’ . . .Hextall on goalie Brian Elliott, who finished his first complete game on Monday night in a 4-3 loss to Boston. “He’s a competitor. I’m sure he’s going to play a game here (one of the last two). Hopefully he’s getting where we need him to be.’’ Elliott had offseason hip surgery. . .Hextall said Michal Neuvirth (groin) still is a question mark. “We still don’t have a definitive timeline.’’. . .Tyrell Goulbourne cleared waivers but has not been sent to the Phantoms yet.

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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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