According to Finnish media reports, Philadelphia Flyers forward Jori Lehtera is being considered by police as a possible suspect in a cocaine ring that operated out of Finland.
Lehtera, who hails from Finland, has already been questioned by police in his home country as one of 23 suspects that are currently being investigated.
NHL to Investigate Situation
While Lehtera has denied his involvement in the drug ring, police did raid a cottage owned by the 30-year-old forward earlier this summer. It is unknown what, if any, evidence was found during that raid.
According to a report by Finnish news service MTV, seven people are already in custody after being accused of being part of a group that distributed two kilos of cocaine in southern Finland. That same report made it clear that Lehtera has not been charged in connection with the drug operation.
The NHL has said that it will also be investigating the situation, but will make no further comment at this time.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall also released a short statement addressing the situation.
�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,� read Hextall�s statement.
Lehtera Uncertain to Make Flyers Roster
Even if the investigation ultimately clears Lehtera, simply the implication of involvement could impact his NHL career.
Lehtera came into the league in the 2014-15 season with the St. Louis Blues, and proved to be a productive center, scoring 14 goals and adding 30 assists in 75 games.
But his production has decreased each year since. Before the 2017-18 season, Lehtera was traded to Philadelphia along with two first round draft picks in exchange for center Brayden Schenn. Last season, Lehtera scored just three goals and eight points in total over 62 games, while seeing his playing time diminish.
That led to questions over whether he would be able to make the Flyers� roster coming out of training camp this year, especially with strong performances from other options who could take on the role of a third-line center, such as Jordan Weal, Corban Knight, and Mikhail Vorobyev.
Considering Lehtera is in the final season of a contract that carries a $4.7 million salary cap hit for Philadelphia this coming year, it�s easy to envision a situation in which the Flyers decide he�s not worth the trouble to keep on their roster. But Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has generally had positive words to say about the Finnish center.
�On the ice, Lehts does things on a daily basis that are extremely consistent,� Hakstol said earlier this week. �He�s a reliable guy in every role that we put him in.�
While the Flyers aren�t a leading Stanley Cup contender, they are expected to compete for a playoff spot again this season after finishing third in the Metropolitan Division last year before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the postseason. William Hill lists Philadelphia as a 25/1 pick to win the Stanley Cup in 2019.