(HockeySTL)-- It took four phone calls spanned across two days for the Blues to extend their leading scorer. Alexander Steen’s signature on Thursday made his new three-year deal official and management happy to have one of their club leaders locked up.
Talks heated up this past week in Ottawa during a breakfast conversation between Steen and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. The Blues made Steen an offer, which he countered. A few more days of both sides giving a bit, and the deal was done.
“We were always working under the timetable that when Alexander was ready to talk, we would be there,” said Armstrong. “The breakfast was more just a state of the union with our leadership group. We talked at the end of last season and told him let us know when he was ready. He felt the time was right.”
The agreement was a bit surprising considering Steen had publicly stated that he preferred to leave the contract negotiating for the offseason. Steen was set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, and could have commanded much more than the $5.8 million average annual value of the deal he signed with the Blues. But the forward wanted to remain in St. Louis.
“I always felt comfortable that this would get done,” said Armstrong. “We thought he always wanted to be here and we certainly wanted him here. Negotiations can go different ways. They all go this way when there is joint interest.”
“Both sides wanted to get it done and we got it done,” added Steen.
The Winnipeg native fetched $17.4 million over three years for the Blues, which will likely make him the highest-paid forward on their roster when his deal kicks in next season. Steen’s performance this season, which includes sitting second in the National Hockey League in goals scored (22), drove up the price for the forward.
Steen currently leads the Blues in points, goals, game-winning goals, and shooting percentage. Steen got off to a hot start in October, scoring 11 goals in his first 11 games. At one point, Steen led the NHL, including Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the League lead in that category.
Since being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2008-09 season, Steen has posted 20 or more points in each of his seasons with St. Louis. This year, Steen is thriving in his top-line role, and is opening eyes around the NHL.
“Since his acquisition, he has come into St. Louis and been a leader on the ice, a leader in our locker room, and a leader in our community,” said Armstrong. “As we have grown as an organization, as a team, he has led the way.”
“When you look at the statistical output of our team, whether it’s ice time, points per game, powerplay and penalty kill ice time, he’s always at the top.”
Steen is praised for his commitment to his team, much like long-time friend and agent Don Baizley. Steen credited his success to Baizley, who passed away this past summer after losing his battle with lung cancer. Baizley was not only Steen’s agent, but also Steen’s father’s when he played in the NHL. The loss was a tough one for Steen.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him,” said Steen. I think he would be proud of where I am today.”
But Steen has earned his new deal. Since coming to the Blues, Steen has elevated his game and is widely regarded around the League as one of the game’s best two-way players. He fills many roles for the Blues, and excels in each of them. He’s a player that coaches love.
“He has become the collective conscience of our hockey club,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock earlier this season. “Off the ice, on the ice, in the weight room, anywhere, he is a guy that all the younger guys follow because of the emphasis he puts on conditioning during the season. He pushes the rest of the group to a whole new level.”
Steen was a player that Blues couldn’t risk losing. The Blues didn’t push him, but certainly let Steen know there was interest in negotiating. The Blues’ ownership group, led by Tom Stillman was contacted by Armstrong and didn’t wait long to give the okay for the extension. Armstrong said he had the full support of the group.
“There’s no question,” said Armstrong. “That’s a great feeling.”
With Steen locked up for three more seasons, the Blues can rest easy knowing they have tone of their most coveted players under their control. Steen’s actions both on and off the ice led to his value, and he would have been irreplaceable. The Blues considered themselves better with Steen on the team, and once again rewarded their own for hard work.
“The greatest compliment you can get as an organization is when you have someone entering unrestricted free agency and is having a wonderful season and he believes in the process, believes in the ownership group, believes in the city, but more importantly believes in his team,” said Armstrong. "That’s rewarding as management when you have all those things combined into one and you get a deal like this done.”