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Steen signing strengthens Blues' foundation

Thursday, 12.19.2013 / 4:14 PM / NHL Insider

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

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Steen signing strengthens Blues' foundation
Alexander Steen wanted to honor his family friend and not get into any summer negotiations with the St. Louis Blues, one reason why he agreed to a three-year contract extension to stay with the team.

ST. LOUIS -- Alexander Steen's appreciation for Don Baizley went beyond a player-agent relationship.

Baizley, who represented many NHL players during a lengthy career, died this past summer from complications with lung cancer. He was 71.

Baizley represented Steen's father, Thomas, when he was a player for the Winnipeg Jets, and he also represented Steen, who signed his three-year extension to remain with the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. The contract pays Steen $17.4 million ($5.8 million average annual value), which includes $5.1 million in 2014-15, $5.8 million in 2015-16 and $6.5 million in 2016-17, and also includes a full no-trade clause that immediately kicks in as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But Steen, who maintained he was comfortable playing out the final year of a four-year, $13.45 million contract, wanted to honor his family friend and not get into any negotiations this past summer.

"To be completely honest, this summer was a sensitive time," Steen said. "My agent -- I don't even want to call him my agent, he's a very close friend of mine -- passed away in the summer. We decided that at the moment, we didn't want to focus on other things, just kind of take the time to remember Don and at the same time, get ready for the season. Moving forward, things like this would take care of itself. When the season started, we wanted to wait until the year was over and we've always had a really good and honest relationship here.

"Don's been a huge part of my life since I was little. He was my father's agent, friends' agent and friends of my father's agent. Everybody would say the same thing about him. Nobody, I think, would call him an agent. He's a friend who helped us get deals done. I think he'd be extremely proud of where I am today. I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for him. Going through that was difficult. Now having gotten this done, it's just a great feeling. This is where we wanted to be. Now I'm just able to focus on playing."

With the salary cap for next season likely to rise 10-11 percent to roughly $71.1 million, the 29-year-old Steen, who is tied for second in the League in goals with 22 and leads the Blues in goals and points (36), would have been one of the more sought-after unrestricted free agents.

Blues president of hockey operations and general manager Doug Armstrong did not want to get into a bidding war over a player the Blues obviously wanted to bring back who is a core player to what they believe they are building. With free agency and Steen having a career year, his value would certainly escalate north of his AAV of $5.8 million.

"I saw what happened where the upper-echelon teams financially paid millions of dollars to get rid of players only to pay millions of dollars to bring new guys in," Armstrong said. "If he got to July 1, he was going to be an attractive player and not just based on his goal total this year, but when you play 20 minutes a night, you play power play, penalty killing, 5-on-5 play … he was going to be an attractive player.

"He's obviously more attractive at the goal pace, but we believe if he settles into a 25-30 goal scorer and 60-point player over the next three years, because of all the other elements he brings, he's going to be a great value for us and he'll be a great benefit to our team."

It's the second time in his career that Steen, acquired along with Carlo Colaiacovo from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008 for Lee Stempniak, has signed an extension with the Blues prior to his current contract expiring. It also marks the second time he's chosen to pass on a chance at having potentially more offers and more money thrown his way.

Alexander Steen
Center - STL
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 36
SOG: 112 | +/-: 13
"I haven't really thought of things like that," Steen said. "I was very honest when I said I was focused on the season. We want to achieve great things here and in order to do that, the focus has to remain on the game. With the schedule we have, there's games every other night, so it kind of made it really easy to stay focused on the game.

"As far as things like that 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. This is a deal we're obviously very happy with. As far as the term goes, we feel three years is a long time. After that, we quietly start discussing things again. It's just the way we do things. It was easy this time, simple and that's how we like to keep it."

Steen and Armstrong really hammered out the details of an extension when the Blues were in Ottawa on Sunday to face the Senators the next night. The two ironed out the parameters over breakfast Monday morning.

"It's really a big credit to the organization here," Steen said. "… Doug and I happened to have a meeting over breakfast in Ottawa and really it was just very quick and both sides wanted to get it done and we got it done.

"It's a good fit for me. I'm really enjoying playing with my teammates. I think we have a great team. It's a really fun group to be a part of. The support you get from the city here, it's tough to beat, and fans here are very special and one of a kind. I'm extremely happy and proud to be a part of this organization and to stay here for not just this year but another three years."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock calls Steen an important piece for the franchise moving forward. With Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and some of the other key pieces locked into contracts, the Blues appear set to remain among the elite teams in the League.

"He understands the balance between what the coach wants and what the team needs," Hitchcock said. "When you have those guys in the locker room it's like gold. When you've got guys in there that speak the coach's language that are able to present it to the team, it's much easier to coach, it's much easier for your team to play at a consistent level.

"We've been at a high level for most of the year because of the buy-in from people like David and Alex and [Pietrangelo] and these guys, their buy-in, has made it easy for us to sell it. If it gets out of whack, rather than going to the group where it gets really thin and then probably doesn't get absorbed near as well, we just give it to the captains and they present it in a different way and it gets absorbed much quicker."

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When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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