Alex Steen is still a year away from unrestricted free agency, but according to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the veteran Swede would like to get a contract extension done with St. Louis prior to the start of the 2016-17 campaign. Rutherford also suggests that the Blues would like a resolution sooner rather than later after watching Troy Brouwer and former team captain David Backes depart as free agents this summer.
Steen is in the final year of a three-year, $17.4MM extension ($5.8MM AAV) the two sides signed in December of 2013. As Rutherford noted, the timing of his previous extension indicates Steen might still be willing to talk about a new deal during the regular season, despite his preference for getting it done prior to its start. But that doesn’t necessarily mean common ground for a new contract will be easy for the parties to find.
Depending on how Steen fares in 2016-17 and whether he is amenable to giving St. Louis a hometown discount, a new contract would still likely cost the Blues $5MM per or more over multiple years. Steen turns 33 next March and is coming off a shoulder injury which caused him to miss 15 games last season and required offseason surgery to fix. Additionally, Steen has never been a stalwart of good health. Only once in his 11-year NHL career has Steen suited up for a full schedule of games and he’s missed at least eight contests in each of his previous seven campaigns.
The Blues were outbid in their attempt to re-sign Backes largely because they were hesitant to guarantee their captain the term or money he was looking for. Ultimately, Backes inked a five-year deal with Boston for $30MM ($6MM AAV) and that’s simply a neighborhood the Blues were not willing to travel into. I find it difficult to believe the Blues would make an exception for Steen when they wouldn’t for their long-time captain.
Still, Steen has been an important two-way contributor for the Blues and one they wouldn’t want to lose. Over the last three seasons, Steen has a points-per-game average of 0.85, which in a full season would prorate out to about 70 points. Only 17 players reached that scoring threshold last season and Steen resides in that company, at least on a rate basis.
Steen is a good driver of puck possession, with his team averaging better than 53% of the shot attempts taken while he is on the ice since joining St. Louis. Steen also positively impacts his team’s odds of scoring goals. With Steen on the ice, the Blues have recorded 55.4% of the goals scored over the last two seasons. Steen adds a lot of value to the Blues roster and it makes sense they’d want to keep him given their position as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Now it’s a matter of whether they can find a term and AAV both sides are comfortable with.
Nonetheless, there is plenty of time for the two sides to get something done. The Blues likely will wait to make sure Steen is completely healthy and producing at normal levels before committing to another multiyear deal. And since Steen clearly wants to stay in St. Louis, he might be willing to make enough concessions to accommodate the Blues front office to ensure he has a chance to finish his career in the Gateway city.