Alexander Steen could hit the open market next season, but according to a report, the St. Louis Blues winger could be looking to sign a contract extension before the campaign begins. Steen, 32, is entering the final season of a deal that pays him $5.8 million per season.
The St. Louis Blues lost captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer in free agency this off-season, but another major piece of the team’s core, Alexander Steen, doesn’t appear to have plans to play elsewhere when his current deal is up.
Steen, 32, is entering the final season of his three-year, $17.4-million deal with the Blues, and according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford, Steen is looking to hammer out a deal to remain in St. Louis beyond the coming campaign before the regular season gets underway. Rutherford said that’s something the Blues would likely work towards, too, considering the losses of Backes and Brouwer for nothing in free agency.
If Steen does, in fact, want to get a deal done before the campaign, it doesn’t seem as though it will be difficult for the two sides to find some common ground. The difficulty will be finding a salary and term that fits the Blues short- and long-term plans.
When Steen inked his current extension in December 2013, which pays him $5.8 million per season, he was two months into one of the best seasons of his career. Steen went on to score 33 goals in the 2013-14 campaign and post a then-career-high 62 points. The following season, Steen potted 24 goals and 64 points to set a new career mark for points in a campaign, but he took a step back this past season, in part due to injury. In 67 games, he notched 17 goals and 52 points.
That an injury is what put a damper on Steen’s production wouldn’t be as concerning were it a rare occurrence, but it’s been a constant in the Swedish winger’s career. Only once, in his sophomore season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, has Steen played a full campaign, and he has missed eight or more games in eight of his 11 seasons in the league. That’s not to mention that Steen is coming off of shoulder surgery which will likely cost him his spot at the World Cup of Hockey, with potential to see him out of the lineup to start the campaign.
The one thing that does make Steen incredibly valuable, though, is his ability at both ends of the ice. Steen has received Selke Trophy votes in six of the past seven seasons and finished in the top 15 in voting in two of the past three seasons. That may not seem like much of a feat, but for a winger to be consistently recognized as a top defensive forward is rare. And unlike Steen’s scoring touch and speed, his two-way acumen isn’t something that should be expected to dwindle with age.
However, combine Steen’s age, dip in production and injury history, and it’s hard to imagine the Blues are keen on handing him much of a raise on a deal that stretches any longer than two or three seasons. But if a $6 million deal is what it takes to lock up Steen — and Rutherford suggested a Steen extension could come in close to that — the Blues are actually in the fortunate position of being able to afford Steen at that cap hit for at least a couple more seasons.
Next off-season, the Blues have seven potential free agents. Of those, the only core players are Patrik Berglund and Colton Parayko. Berglund could very well be gone soon, and Parayko, who will be a restricted free agent, might not command big bucks quite yet. And given the Blues have a projected $19-million-plus in cap space for the 2017-18 campaign and more than $36 million in 2018-19, St. Louis shouldn’t have to worry about a cap crunch forcing them to blow up the squad, even if Steen underperforms.
Regardless of what Steen signs for, though, it sounds like he wants to remain a Blue. He has spent the past nine seasons of his career in St. Louis. With the Blues seemingly trending in the right direction, Steen might have designs on being part of the group that brings a Stanley Cup to St. Louis.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.