On the day they opened training camp, the St. Louis Blues also announced the signing of veteran forward Alexander Steen to a four-year contract extension worth $23 million.
“It’s a great day for the St. Louis Blues and our organization,” Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. “Alexander has been a big part of our franchise since he arrived here. His desire to be a part of something and build and winning and hopefully win a championship here in St. Louis ... it comes through in a situation like this.”
Steen could have tried to make more money on the open market as a free agent, but opted to remain with the Blues. His deal comes with an average annual value of $5.75 million and runs through the 2020-21 season.
Steen’s previous deal was for three years and $17.4 million; it was set to expire after this season.
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“We all know that free agency was an option for him, but he stepped up over the course of the summer and even our conversations last year made it clear that wanted to try and find a solution to stay in St. Louis,” Armstrong said. “From our perspective, we made it very clear that he was a player we wanted to keep here in St. Louis. He’s a big part of our leadership group now and into the future.”
The 32-year-old Steen is about to begin his ninth season with the Blues and has become one of the NHL’s most versatile two-way forwards because of his scoring and checking skills. He had 17 goals and 52 points in 67 games last season, then helped lead the Blues to the Western Conference final with four goals and 10 points in 20 playoff contests.
Steen underwent shoulder surgery June 3 that kept him from playing with Team Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey Tournament. He was on the ice Friday at Scottrade Center for training camp, but also wearing a protective yellow jersey.
Steen ranks 11th on the Blues’ all-time scoring list with 147 goals and 355 points in 493 games. He tallied a career-high 33 goals in 2013-14 and turned in a 64-point season the following year.
In 11 NHL seasons, including time with the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded to the Blues, Steen has 197 goals and 482 points in 746 games.
“It shows a lot about what’s important to him,” Armstrong said of the mutual decision to lock up the forward to four more ears in St. Louis. “He feels he has a large stake in the ownership of our team as far as a player and how we’re perceived in the league. It’s a testament to his teammates that he believes in them, that he believes that we can win and that guys have in the room have what it takes to win this year and moving forward.
“You get to a point where the money is the money, you have enough of that; you want to win. That’s really what comes up and comes through with Alexander. The business side is the business side. He’s all about winning. He’s all about doing the correct things to win.”
Training camp opens
The Blues opened camp Friday with a different look after the loss of David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott. Backes signed with the Boston Bruins as a free agent, Brouwer signed with Calgary and Elliott was traded to Calgary.
Steen and Blues defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk are both in the revamped leadership group as alternate captains along with Vladimir Tarasenko. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was named the Blues’ new captain earlier this summer.
While several key players and longtime Blues veterans are gone, some familiar faces have returned. Winger David Perron is back with the Blues and forwards Chris Porter and Yan Stastny, the brother of Blues center Paul Stastny, are in camp on pro tryout contracts.
Shattenkirk said the loss of veterans like Backes, Brouwer and Elliott have definitely changed the face of the franchise.
“It’s definitely a different feel here in camp,” Shattenkirk said Friday. “Not seeing Dave (Backes) is a big change, he’s someone who was one of the first guys I saw coming into this locker room. Troy was someone who acclimated quickly last year, especially through training camp. Brian is another guy who was a staple here for a long time.
“You can’t put that part aside, but that’s what happens every year. That’s something that you have to deal with. The good part about it is some of the new guys we have in here we’ve seen before and it’s not a process for them where they feel uncomfortable coming in here. They know a few guys, they can feel comfortable in here and be able to get out into practice and know Hitch’s style a little bit and get right to work.”