Although he withdrew from the World Cup of Hockey last month, Blues forward Alex Steen is hoping he will be ready to suit up for St. Louis in their season opener on October 12th, reports Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Steen stops short of saying he’ll definitely be ready to play against Chicago on opening night but hopes to be ready by then or shortly thereafter:
“(The opener) seems like a realistic target, but we’ll see how it reacts. I haven’t done much. These (practice) skates, there’s not a lot of contact, so we’ll see once we get a little bit of contact. But I think for sure I see myself playing in October.”
Although he won’t be able to play for his native Sweden in the tournament, Steen noted that the goal of being able to play there actually forced him to accelerate his rehab process from his shoulder surgery back in early June. Without doing so, the chances of him being available to start the season would have been lower.
Steen also denied the speculation that he has given the team an ultimatum to re-sign him before the end of the preseason:
“I don’t know where that surfaced, that’s not something that’s come from me. I want to be in St. Louis and the organization knows that. I’m sure we’ll get to it when we get to it, so we’re not stressed about it. Right now, the whole focus has been on the shoulder, getting that ready and getting the group back together again.”
Steen is entering the final year of his contract, one that carries a cap hit of $5.8MM and a salary of $6.5MM. He has been in St. Louis since late 2008 when he was acquired from Toronto along with defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo in exchange for right winger Lee Stempniak.
Elsewhere around the league:
- Buffalo blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen isn’t yet worried that he doesn’t have a new deal with the Sabres, writes Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. Ristolainen is coming off his entry-level pact which carried a guaranteed salary of just $925K. He was one of the bigger bargains on the back end last season, one where he had a career high 41 points in 82 games. Harrington suggests that Ristolainen, who will suit up for Team Finland at the World Cup of Hockey, is seeking a five or six year deal which would cover his remaining restricted free agent years.
- There is still no deal in place yet to officially allow Vladimir Sobotka to return to St. Louis for the upcoming season, notes ESPN’s Joe MacDonald. The Blues and his KHL team Avangard Omsk as well as his agent are expected to talk during the World Cup to try to come to a resolution. Sobotka has one year on his deal remaining in Russia but also owes St. Louis one year with a salary of $2.725MM, an arbitration award from back in July of 2014.
- New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak has earned the #1 job for Team Europe at the World Cup, head coach Ralph Krueger announced. He beat out Islanders teammate Thomas Greiss and Washington’s Phillip Grubauer for the job. Team Europe plays their first game of the tournament on Saturday afternoon against Team USA.
- Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky will start Team Russia’s first game on Sunday afternoon, reports NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika. He beat out Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy for the start in the opener. Head coach Oleg Znarok wouldn’t say who he plans to start beyond that and noted that no decisions have been made on what their lineup against Sweden will be.