Blues and Steen came together quickly on deal

News-DemocratDecember 19, 2013 

— While some contracts take four months, St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen's three-year, $17.4 million contract extension took four phone calls.

It was consummated over breakfast in Ottawa earlier this week and helped the Blues lock up one of their top forwards.

The deal pays Steen $5.1 million, $5.8 million and $6.5 million over the next three seasons and also includes a no-trade clause.

"We were always working under the timetable that when Alexander was ready to talk, we would be there," Armstrong said Thursday. "The breakfast was more just a state of the union with Alexander's part of our leadership group.

"I felt it was going to get into his situation. He just felt the time was right."

Things went quickly from there, according to both parties.

"As soon as he said he was interested, I called and talked to (Blues owner) Tom Stillman and his ownership group," Armstrong said. "He talked to his ownership group and gave us the go-ahead. We called, we made one offer, he made a counter. It happened in two days.

"I wish they could all go this way. ... They do go this way when you have joint interest, and that's 'We want the player here and the player wants to be here.'''

The 29-year-old Steen signed the contract Thursday. He began the day ranked second in the NHL with 22 goals and ninth with 36 points, then tied his career high with two goals in the first period Thursday against Montreal.

It was his fifth two-goal game this season.

Steen could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He had put negotiations out of mind after the death of his longtime agent and friend, Don Baizley. Baizley died last summer at age 71.

"I don't even want to call him my agent," Steen said. "He was a very close friend of mine. We decided at the moment we didn't want to focus on other things, just take the time to remember Don ... and moving forward things like this would take care of itself.

"Then when the season started, we wanted to wait until the year was over. We've always had an honest relationship here. Doug and I happened to have a meeting over breakfast in Ottawa and really it was just very quick. Both sides wanted to get it done and we got it done."

Steen said the loss of Baizley, a close friend of his family, was extremely difficult.

"Don has been a huge part of my life since I was little," Steen said. "He was my father's agent, friends' agent. ... Everybody would say the same thing about him. I think he'd be extremely proud of where I am today and I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for him."

Keeping Steen around for three more years was a popular move with his teammates.

"First you've got to prove to them that you want to be here, through your play, through your work ethic, and Steener did that," said Blues winger T.J. Oshie. "Literally every aspect of his game got better this year and he's a leader. I'm sure they were as happy as he was to get that deal done."

The contract extension was the latest of many done by the Blues, who remain steadfast in their chase of a Stanley Cup.

"It shows that we're here to win," Oshie said. "We want to be contenders every year and we've got the right guys in here to do it."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Steen is an example of a player who places the same or even higher emphasis on defense as offense.

"He's an outstanding player that's really developed his game," Hitchcock said. "He never had a problem defensively, but he's developed the accuracy of his shot. He's seen the value of checking and creating chances off of checking."

Hitchcock said Steen continues to evolve with each season, but the fundamentals and hard work never change.

"He came (to us) kind of as a checker and now he's developed into a complete player," Hitchcock said, "and he's going to get rewarded --and so are we --because of it.

"He understands the balance between what the coach wants and what the team needs. When you have those guys in the locker room it's like gold."

Armstrong said both sides had parameters to work with on both the contract term and dollar amount.

"We had talked about a maximum we would go in term and the dollar value was going to be consistent on what term he chose," Armstrong said. "We let him decide on the final year numbers.

"We have an outlier in Alex Pietrangelo (he got a seven-year, $45.5 million extension earlier this year), but I just don't believe that's the way to go (for a) franchise with having too many players on extended deals into seven and eight years."

On pace to have a career-best season, Steen could have waited until the summer to test the free-agent market. Because of his strong two-way game, Steen would likely have been one of the most attractive names available.

"I haven't really thought of things like that," Steen said. "I was really very honest when I said I was focused on the season. ... As far as things like (free agency) go, I think it's more speculation and things that go on in the media than it does in my own home. We obviously love the city here in St. Louis and are comfortable.

"And as far as the term goes, we feel three years is a long time. After that, we'll probably quietly start discussing things again."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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