The St. Louis Blues announced on Friday that they have signed forward Alexander Steen to a four year 23 million-dollar contract extension.
The 32-year-old will be beginning his ninth season in “The Gateway City” this fall. St. Louis acquired Steen from the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 24, 2008. During the 2015-2016 season he finished second on the Blues in assists (35) and points (52), while being the fifth leading goal scorer, with 17.
In the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, his four goals and six assists helped lead St. Louis to the Western Conference Finals, for the first time in 15 seasons.
The extension, which carries a salary cap hit of 5.75 million-dollars, does not kick in until July 1, 2017 as his current three-year deal runs through the end of the 2016-2017 season.
As the Blues opened their training camp on Friday, Steen said, “I am extremely happy to be staying in St. Louis. Obviously it has become my home now. I feel extremely attached to St. Louis and the community. It was very important to us.”
Steen has laced up the skates for 493 National Hockey League games with the Blues. His 147 goals and 208 assists, ranks the Winnipeg native, 11th in franchise history in points.
Over 11 NHL seasons he has put up 197 goals and 284 assists, in 746 games. Through 51 playoff games he has added 10 goals and 14 assists.
Steen is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but he is on pace to play in the Blues season opener on October 12, as they take on their division rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Blues general manager, Doug Armstrong felt going into the final year of his current contract, he wanted to reach a new agreement as quickly as possible.
He said, “When we talked last year, and even when the season was over, we both said if we could get it wrapped up so it was not a distraction going into the season, that would be great. We had some conversations when he got back, and he had put a lot of work into trying to get ready for the World Cup. When he was not able to pull that off, we had some conversations with his representative here in Toronto and it finished quickly, but it was a four or five-month process that we went through to get to where we are at today.”
He added, “It is always nice to have these done before training camp or before the season because it removes a distraction from Alexander and his teammates.”
By accepting a contact with a lower salary cap hit, pretty much shows the appreciation he has for the Blues organization, for having the faith in him since they acquired him nine years ago.
Steen said, “I do not think I could have seen myself throwing anything on over my shoulders other than a Blue note right now. It takes some time to grow attached like this. For me, it is nothing that I take lightly, and I am extremely happy staying here.”
The Blues lost David Backes and Troy Brouwer to free agency this summer, so the signing of Steen is an important one for the organization in terms of their veteran leadership. He will help out with the development of some of their younger stars, like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri.
Armstrong added, “It is a great day for the St. Louis Blues and our organization. Alexander has been a big part of our franchise since he arrived here. His desire to be a part of something to build and winning and hopefully win a championship here in St. Louis, it comes through in a situation like this. We all know that free agency was an option for him, but he stepped up over the course of the summer and even our conversations last year, made it clear he wanted to try and find a solution to stay in St. Louis. He is a big part of our leadership group now and into the future.”
Blues head coach, Ken Hitchcock, who will be retiring at the end of the season has felt that Steen is almost like an extra coach on the team.
Hitchcock said, “There is certain players that raise the intellect level on your team as far as hockey sense, as far as smarts on the ice, as far as playing the game the right way. We are able to show him off to a lot of younger players. He is a really good example to a lot of the younger players on how to play the game the right way, how to prepare off the ice, how to stay fit, how to take care of yourself in every aspect. So it becomes a very easy sell for us as a coaching staff because we a guy like that, `Hey, just follow this guy and you are going to be alright.’”