Where does Alexander Steen’s retirement leave the St. Louis Blues?
On what was a big day of news in the NHL on Thursday, we were dealt with a sudden retirement after St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen opted to call it a career due to a lingering back injury.
On the same day that future Hall of Famer and Washington Capitals goaltender Henrik Lundqvist announced that he would be sitting out the 2020-21 season due to a heart condition, Steen hung up his skates and marked the end of an era for the Blues.
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It was a sad end to what was a pretty remarkable career for Steen who was the true epitome of toughness and leadership throughout his 15-year career in the National Hockey League.
Drafted with the 24th overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, before being dealt to the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 24, 2008 in a trade that still probably haunts the Leafs in more ways than one, Steen was a true glue guy and a real leader on and off the ice.
While the Maple Leafs got the rough end of the deal after acquiring defenseman Lee Stempniak and continued to be entrenched in hockey obscurity, the Blues gained a real core player in Steen who established himself as the heart and soul of the organization.
He amassed 496 points (195 G, 301 A) in 765 regular season games for the St. Louis Blues, in addition to recording 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points in 91 postseason games.
Steen also made the ultimate sacrifice during the Blues’ stunning run to the 2018-19 Stanley Cup, accepting a fourth-line role and reduced responsibilities on the ice in order to act as a mentor for the likes of Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, with that bottom line a key component for St. Louis in winning their first championship in franchise history.
Overall, it was a stellar career for Steen who retires ranked fourth in Blues franchise history in games played (765), ninth in goals (195), sixth in assists (301), fifth in points (496) and only two Blues (Brett Hull and Alex Pietrangelo) have played more postseason games than Steen’s 91.
But, while Alexander Steen’s status as a franchise icon and legend is secured, what now for the St. Louis Blues?
Alexander Steen will likely get offered some kind of coaching, scouting or front office role by the St. Louis Blues, while there will no doubt be a well-deserved lavish ceremony for the forward once fans are allowed back into arenas.
For now, though, Steen will remain on LTIR (Long-Term Injured Reserve) with his status unknown for the 2020-21 season even before yesterday’s big announcement.
That is significant because, already $1.2 million over the flat cap of $81.5 million, the Blues do now boast some cap flexibility moving forward.
With both Steen and stud forward Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR, the St. Louis Blues can exceed the cap by $13.25 million if they so wish but, with Tarasenko expected back for the 2020-21 season, the front office could spend up to $87.25 million knowing that Steen won’t be back at any point.
That is important because the Blues still have to re-sign UFA defenseman Vince Dunn, while they could now be on the hunt for a replacement for Steen.
While Steen was one of a kind and his leadership, experience and hard-nosed play will be tough to replace, there are several cheap options still littered throughout the Free Agent market.
Michael Grabner could be an option for St. Louis given how he plays the game and the fact that his pure speed makes him a lethal weapon on the penalty kill, while the likes of Colin Wilson, Matt Martin and Brian Boyle would replace some of the toughness and experience that Steen brought to the table by the bucketload.
Throw Corey Perry and Trevor Lewis into the mix too and the Blues certainly have options should they wish to use Free Agency to bring in a bottom-six forward to help fill some of the void left by Steen’s retirement.
Steen’s permanent presence on LTIR now opens some doors for the St. Louis Blues and, while they will be poorer for life without Alexander Steen on and off the ice, things have been made easier when it comes to re-signing Vince Dunn and maybe shoring up that bottom-six forward unit with a fresh face.
When one door closes another opens as they say.