Thursday, December 31, 2020

Blues, Dunn come to terms on one-year contract

Defenseman to get $1.875 million, was a restricted 
free agent; 2020-21 training camp roster announced

ST. LOUIS -- The lone remaining defensive domino fell for the Blues as they usher out 2020.

The team announced on Thursday that they've agreed to terms with restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn on a one-year contract worth $1.875 million. 
Vince Dunn

The 24-year-old Dunn, a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, finished with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 71 games last season, the only defenseman to play in all 71 games. In 224 NHL games, Dunn has 82 points (26 goals, 56 assists).

With Dunn, who had no arbitration rights but will have them after the upcoming season, on board, the Blues are $3.050 million over the salary cap ceiling of $81.5 million, and with forward Mike Hoffman, who was signed to a professional tryout contract on Sunday, yet to sign, the Blues will look to make the cap space available when they place Alexander Steen and his $5.75 million cap hit on long-term injured-reserve, and when Tarasenko, who is coming off surgery on his left shoulder, to likely go on LTIR at the start of the season, the Blues will have enough cap space to sign Hoffman to a contract.

Dunn is coming off an entry-level contract that paid him an average annual value of $888,333, with a $722.5 million cap hit. He was due a raise but probably came in under what the Blues could have been viewing to pay him heading into this past season.

Dunn, who had what was considered a breakout season in 2018-19 with 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 78 games, will have plenty of motivation heading into a new season after having a subpar-playoff season; he missed all of the Return to Play Plan training camp stemming from COVID-19.

* Blues announce camp roster -- The Blues also announced on Thursday they will have 40 players in training camp when players report on Sunday for physicals and fitness testing. 

They will be on the ice Monday at Tuesday at Centene Community Ice Center and scrimmage at Enterprise Center Wednesday at 7 p.m. The season-opener is Jan. 13 at Colorado.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, training camp will be closed to the public.

A couple notable omissions from this year's camp roster include forwards Klim Kostin, Alexey Toropchenko and Nikita Alexandrov.

The Blues announced Tuesday that Toropchenko and Alexandrov, who were playing for Kunlun Red Star of the Kontinental Hockey League and KooKoo in the Finnish Liiga League respectively, were loaned to their respective clubs for the season.

Toropchenko, 21, a fourth-round pick in 2017, has eight points (six goals, two assists) in 25 games this season for Kunlun. Alexandrov, 20, is a second-round pick in 2019.

The 21-year-old Kostin, a first-round pick in 2017, has a goal and four assists in 23 games while on load for Avangard Omsk of the KHL, and it the Blues were set to bring him back from Russia, but Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Kostin will have to stay in Russia for the time being.

"Hard to get a visa now, so having him continuing to play as we wait is the best option," Armstrong said via text.

The AHL has a contingency plan to begin their season Feb. 5, so in a perfect world, the Blues would like to get Kostin back to the states in a timely manner before that.

2020-21 St. Louis Blues training camp roster: 
Forwards (23)                                                Defensemen (13)
9 - Sammy Blais                                             4 - Carl Gunnarsson
10 - Brayden Schenn (A)                                6 - Marco Scandella
12 - Zach Sanford                                          29 - Vince Dunn
13 - Kyle Clifford                                            36 - Steven Santini
17 - Jaden Schwartz                                      39 - Mitch Reinke
18 - Robert Thomas                                       41- Robert Bortuzzo
21 - Tyler Bozak                                             46 - Jake Walman
25 - Jordan Kyrou                                          47 - Torey Krug
26 - Nathan Walker                                        48 - Scott Perunovich
28 - Mackenzie MacEachern                         55 - Colton Parayko (A)
33 - Sam Anas                                                 72 - Justin Faulk
49 - Ivan Barbashev                                       75 - Tyler Tucker
51 - Nolan Stevens                                        77 - Niko Mikkola
53 - Austin Poganski                                      
56 - Hugh McGing                                          Goaltenders (4)
57 - David Perron                                           1 - Joel Hofer
61 - Jacob de la Rose                                   32 - Jon Gillies
63 - Jake Neighbours                                    35 - Ville Husso
68 - Mike Hoffman                                         50 - Jordan Binnington
70 - Oskar Sundqvist                                     
81 - Curtis McKenzie                                     Injured
83 - Tanner Kaspick                                      91 - Vladimir Tarasenko (A)
90 - Ryan O’Reilly (C)                                    

Monday, December 28, 2020

Blues smartly using cap space relief, shouldn't be scrutinized for it

Blues wanted Hoffman, Hoffman wanted the Blues, 
a perfect match will be consummated as a result


Commentary by LOU KORAC
In an unprecedented year in which a global pandemic has altered everyone's lives, Blues fans have spent the past 24 hours suddenly stoked about 2021.

Not that they weren't before, but the seismograph shook with good reason on Sunday night. 
Mike Hoffman

With the Blues announcing that they're bringing in 31-year-old unrestricted free agent sniper forward Mike Hoffman on a professional tryout contract to get his feet -- or skates -- wet with the team heading into the opening of training camp on Jan. 3, the intentions are quite simple: to sign Mike Hoffman, who will in turn be a member of the St. Louis Blues this season.

The Blues can call it what they want, and we all understand nothing's official until it is in fact official, but for all intents and purposes, Hoffman's PTO is a precursor of what's to come, and Hoffman will join the Blues on what is believed to be a one-year contract in the neighborhood of $4 million, give or take, and will give this team another offensive weapon among their crop of top six forwards.

I think it's a terrific move by general manager Doug Armstrong simply because he's identified a player the team can use as a complementary piece, and not to say the Blues are void of scoring, because we saw just how rounded they were scoring last season with Vladimir Tarasenko missing all but 10 games last season in averaging 3.17 goals per game, but when you can add the caliber of goal scorer of a Mike Hoffman to your lineup, you have to take a shot at it, even if the salary cap situation is predictably dicey, and there's still the business of signing restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn to tighten the screws even more.

However, the Blues got a huge break when Alexander Steen announced his retirement from the NHL after 15 seasons, thus freeing up his $5.75 million cap hit. And let's face it, without Steen's basically forced exit from the game because of a lingering back issue that has not healed properly, this situation would not even be on the table, and with the Blues putting Tarasenko (shoulder) on long-term injured reserve along with Steen, it will free up $13.25 million in cap space at the Blues' disposal even though they'll have to account for Tarasenko's $7.5 million when he comes back from shoulder surgery in mid-February when he's re-evaluated, at the earliest.

Needless to say, Blues fans are stoked about the latest developments, and with good reason, but other hockey fans around the league feel as if the Blues are circumventing the cap of $81.5 million. 

To which I say: how? 

Why should a team be penalized in cap space when a player, unfortunately, isn't able to fulfill a contract because of injury that in this situation, and has forced said player to retire? The Blues were fully intending on having Steen back for what would have likely been his final season in St. Louis anyway, at least at that price tag, but can't because of injury. Teams shouldn't be punished for this, and it was written in this way in the latest collective bargaining agreement. Every team knows this and has it at their disposal and are fully aware of what's at their disposal if a situation like this arises. 

So if fans feel this isn't right, take it up with your favorite team, and ask them collectively to alter the language because as it's written, the Blues didn't circumvent anything. 

The Blues are doing what's allowable, and that involves playing by the rules. They wait for when they have to be cap-compliant, which is the start of the regular season, they put the aforementioned two players on LTIR and use the available space to sign Hoffman. It's allowed, and they have every right to utilize it.

Look at it from a different perspective: if Connor McDavid injures himself in camp or in any situation and somehow can't play for the Edmonton Oilers this season, why should they be penalized with a $12.5 million cap hit? The Oilers should be able to use that cap relief should they choose to do so. Nikita Kucherov is injured and will miss the regular season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they should be given $9.5 million cap space relief for it if needed. That's why the rule is there. 

The Blues have two players that are out on long-term injuries and shouldn't be punished for it, plain and simple. I don't get the vitriol from the outside world on this.

Yes, it is a strange situation that a player of this caliber is going the route of a PTO, but what's not been strange about 2020? In a normal world, Hoffman would have been gobbled up as soon as the clock struck 11 a.m. (CT) or any time after on July 1 and would have been given a lucrative contract. Players that average 28.1 goals per season the past six seasons don't grow on trees, and they don't stay on the market very long. He's one of 13 current players to score 20 or more goals in the league. The guy has a knack for the net, and the Blues will benefit from it.

Now let's get to another peeve I had from last night, and it's the ones that were wondering why would they bring someone that could be disruptive into the locker room. And I have no clue where this is coming from.

My answer to this is don't you think the Blues did their homework on this? Do you really think they're going to bring somebody into the fold that would be dubbed a "locker room cancer?" I can remember when people questioned the time when fans felt that the Blues' locker room was divided with a Steen group and an Alex Pietrangelo group. I found that to be unfounded at the time, and I think it all turned out for the best in 2019, didn't it? 

I'm fully aware of the Hoffman-Erik Karlsson situation stemming from their time in Ottawa that came to light in 2018, and yes, there were some ugly and terrible accusations slung around during that unfortunate time, and I'm sure the Blues broached this subject with Hoffman and his camp. And I can guarantee that the Blues make very clear to anyone that is interested to come to St. Louis or vice versa, the culture that has been built here and the team-first mentality is the highest priority. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

And lastly, it's understandable to ask why would Hoffman go this route. I found it to be a calculated risk on his part at the time, but Hoffman and his agent, Robert Hooper, were patient in allowing the market to dictate itself, even if it meant taking it to the waning days leading into camp. And it worked.

As a UFA, Hoffman could have picked any of the 31 teams that had interest in his services, and from what I was told, it was a high number that were really interested but don't have the cap space to fit him in. 

Even knowing the Blues are currently $1,175,515 over the cap limit according to when the situation presented itself that they would have room to fit the caliber of a Mike Hoffman into their lineup, the marriage consummated itself. The Blues wanted Mike Hoffman, Mike Hoffman wanted the Blues. End of story.

There's a fit and a need for him in the top-six here, even when Tarasenko returns, a guy that can be a power-play catalyst who scored 58 man-advantage goals the past five seasons, 49 in the past four. 

It's evident Hoffman can play on the offensive side of the puck, but there's the question of his two-way play. I know a simple fix to that: play him with Ryan O'Reilly. Don't you think the new captain will draw Hoffman into the battle on both sides of the ice? Look what O'Reilly has done for David Perron, and look at what those two have done with Zach Sanford as linemates. Or perhaps you don't think playing with a Jaden Schwartz and a Brayden Schenn won't rub off on Hoffman when they see how his linemates would skate through a brick wall to free up ice for him?

And you think Hoffman wouldn't be motivated playing for Craig Berube, who has some good problems on his hands now in making out a lineup every game? 

I think Hoffman sees the culture, structure and system instilled here and that's why he chose the Blues. It's not only a talented team but one that's built to win.

Hoffman's had a nice career, 359 points (172 goals, 187 assists) in seven full seasons. But the resume only shows 29 Stanley Cup Playoff games (19 in one season when the Senators reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2017) and one ultimate void: a championship. He knows the vast majority of this group raised Lord Stanley's Cup less than two years ago, and putting himself in the puzzle could help him get there for the first time, and his teammates a second time.

There are no guarantees of anything, because the Stanley Cup is so hard to win. And the West Division will be formidable, with Colorado and Vegas striving for similar goals, but even in a shortened 56-game season, Armstrong has his poker face back on, and the Blues' GM has made it clear that he's all in. So is Hoffman, because he's chosen what he believes is his best path to a Stanley Cup.

Colorado and Vegas may be considered favorites in the division outside of St. Louis, but I believe the Blues were already there and have enhanced their chances even more, and after how things unfolded during last season's playoffs, this group will be more motivated than ever, and pulling a new teammate along for the ride.


Blues ink Hoffman to PTO

Forward scored 29 goals for Florida last season, will join team for training 
camp Jan. 3; could sign contract when Steen, Tarasenko go on LTIR

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues could be on the verge of adding some scoring punch to their roster in the very near future.

In a bit of a surprising move in the way it came about, and not necessarily getting the player to St. Louis, the Blues inked veteran forward Mike Hoffman to a professional tryout contract.
(Florida Panthers photo)
The Blues have signed forward Mike Hoffman to a professional
tryout contract and he will join the club for training camp Jan. 3

The 31-year-old Hoffman, who spent the past three seasons with the Florida Panthers, will join the Blues for the start of training camp on Jan. 3 and participate in all training camp activities. However, Hoffman, who had 59 points (29 goals, 30 assists) in 69 games with the Panthers, can sign a contract with any NHL team while his PTO is effective. His PTO will expire at the end of camp.

There have been rumblings that Hoffman, an unrestricted free agent, was on the Blues' radar following the news of Alexander Steen's retirement and Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) starting the season on long-term injured reserve. But coming to terms with Hoffman, whose cap hit last season was $5.187 million, would be a dicey situation at present time for the Blues.

But that all can come to a head when they get cap relief once they put Steen, who called it a career after 15 seasons because of a back injury stemming from multiple levels of degenerative herniated disks in his lumbar spine, on LTIR and get the full cap benefit from his remaining $5.75 million hit for this season. Once that happens, there should be roughly $4 million in available space to sign Hoffman, who would be a tremendous boost for an offense that had good balance.

And Tarasenko, who carries a $7.5 million cap hit, would also provide cap relief for the time he's on LTIR, but once he is activated, that cap space comes back on the books but would not affect the Blues' cap situation when it does occur.

Should things come to a head, Hoffman is likely to get a one-year team-friendly deal to keep the Blues under the salary cap, and perhaps a should things work well in St. Louis for Hoffman, a contract extension could be in place for beyond when players on one-year deals can sign extensions, which is normally Jan. 1 but is March 12 due to the unusual circumstances of this year's 56-game season.

The Blues still have to sign restricted free agent Vince Dunn but his contract, which will get a bump up from his cap hit of $722,500 to somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.75 million to $2.5 million per season on a rough guess, will not affect a potential contract and dollars in signing Hoffman.

Should the Blues be able to consummate a contract with Hoffman and his camp, he will make this power-play unit lethal with the addition of defenseman Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins, along with the likes of Tarasenko when he returns, Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Ryan O'Reilly, Dunn, Colton Parayko and others.

Hoffman, who was picked in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators, has 359 points (172 goals, 187 assists) in 493 NHL games with the Senators and Panthers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Blues name O'Reilly 23rd captain in franchise history

Tarasenko, Schenn, Parayko named assistant captains 
in new leadership group heading into 2020-21 season

ST. LOUIS -- One of the worst kept secrets was unveiled by the Blues on Wednesday when they named Ryan O'Reilly as the 23rd captain in franchise history.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan O'Reilly was named 23rd captain in Blues
history on Wednesday.
O'Reilly, 29, replaces Alex Pietrangelo, who was captain since 2016. Pietrangelo left the Blues as an unrestricted free agent when he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 12.

O'Reilly seemed like a shoe-in for the honor with his infectious work ethic both at practice, after practice, before, during and after games.

"Obviously it's very different for sure, but I'm excited for it," O'Reilly said. "It's definitely an honor to be seen in this light from the organization and the players as well. To hear from them and get their support, it's pretty amazing. I know my parents and family are very excited too. It's something that will take a little while to get used to, but it's an exciting challenge for it."

Along with O'Reilly, the Blues also named Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and Colton Parayko as assistant captains. 

"We are pleased to announce Ryan as the Captain of the St. Louis Blues,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said in a statement. "Ryan, along with Vladimir, Brayden and Colton will have our full support as we move forward."

Parayko has been dubbed to replace the role and minutes vacated by former captain Alex Pietrangelo, who held the role since 2016 after taking over for David Backes when Backes signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins.

Pietrangelo left the Blues via free agency when he signed a seven-year, $61.6 million contract.

"He's already an amazing leader and probably one of the nicest guys on the planet. He truly is an amazing guy that really cares about every single person. His game too, the way he performs, he's a guy that just takes it over sometimes, which is very impressive to see. He has a ton of respect from everyone in this room. It's not necessarily me teaching him, it's him constantly doing what he does. He just has a presence and I think with Petro being gone, his role enhances for sure, which I think he will do a great job of elevating to it. He's a huge piece to this team and it's exciting to see he'll be getting more opportunities."

O'Reilly moves into the role Pietrangelo held the past four seasons and got his blessings from the former captain.

"It was very nice of him," O'Reilly said. "He reached out and we just sent a few messages back and forth and such, but he's very supportive of it, which was very nice to hear from him. We're definitely going to miss him, but he kind of sent an olive branch too if there's anything I ever need, don't hesitate to call him. I probably wouldn't want to reveal too much since he's now the enemy. To have that support from him and he's been here for so long and built this culture. It's great to have the support from him and to reach out of I need to."

O'Reilly will begin his third season with the Blues and his 12th in the NHL; he was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres July 1, 2018 for forwards Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.

"Ryan’s work ethic on and off the ice and his commitment day in and day out is second to none,” Blues coach Craig Berube said in a statement. "He leads by example with how hard he works during practices and our games and he relays the right message from our coaching staff to our entire team."

O'Reilly, who has played in 804 NHL games (153 with the Blues) went from losing his love for the game in what turned out to be his last season with the Sabres in 2017-18 to winning a Stanley Cup in 2019, a Conn Smythe Trophy and Selke Award with the Blues.

"I haven't had really much time to really look back," O'Reilly said. "I'm too busy trying to prepare as best as we can for the season and stuff that's going on here, but it's amazing. It's amazing how things change. To go from one thing to winning and then to now this being a captain, it's something I never thought would happen. It's pretty amazing, but obviously there's a lot of work that comes with it that will be very challenging and fun."

O'Reilly was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft and learned under then-Avs captain, defenseman Adam Foote, once he dabbled in wearing the captaincy as a junior.

"Gosh, I can't even remember the last time I wore a 'C' but it might have been an under-18 team with Team Canada," O'Reilly said. "When I was young, I wore it a few times. It was definitely a cool experience then and such. 

"Over my career, I think as I've kind of gotten older and such, you kind of pay attention to the way guys lead more and more and when I first came into the league, I had Adam Foote as a captain and remember what he did and just the relationships that he had with the staff and everyone. It was pretty amazing to see and it's definitely something that you admired and looked up to and eventually wanted to be that kind of guy. I know coming here and being part of this group and the veteran groups, I was blown away seeing what it takes to lead and seeing Petro and seeing how he handles himself and the other veterans here. I think I learned a lot in these past two years of what it takes and how hard it is but also how rewarding it can be."

Ryan O'Reilly talks after the Blues won Game 7 of the 
Stanley Cup Final in 2019.
With O'Reilly, Tarasenko, Schenn and Parayko, it ushers in a new wave of leadership that isn't so new. These players were all leaders without always wearing a letter (aside from Tarasenko) on a regular basis but were considered part of the close bond the Blues considered themselves having that helped them persevere when they made their Cup run.

But replacing the likes of Alexander Steen, who called it a career last week, Jay Bouwmeester, who is likely to retire after suffering a cardiac episode last season, Pietrangelo and Jake Allen, who was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in the off-season, will be hard to replace.

"What those guys built here is something special," O'Reilly said. "They were really responsible for each other and made sure they competed at everything they did. Coming in here two years ago, I really took notice of it and saw how important it was. Our leadership group has talked about it. That's something we want to maintain. We want to play like Steener, the way every time he touched the ice, he played so hard and did whatever he could to win. That's why I think we are the team we are now and we have to improve on as well. It's definitely carry on what these guys have built. There's going to be little things that we have to find our own way, but with the staples of what's kind of been built here are definitely very important for us."

2020-21 Blues regular-season schedule

Team will compete for one season in newly-named West Division

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL revealed the scheduled for all 31 teams on Wednesday afternoon, including that of the Blues, who will play in the West Division this season in a 56-game abbreviated regular-season schedule set forth because of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

The Blues will open the season against the Colorado Avalanche in newly-named Ball Arena on Jan. 13 and conclude the regular season against Alex Pietrangelo at the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas on May 8.

The Blues, who have 10 sets of back-to-backs, will play each of their divisional opponents eight times, including the Minnesota Wild four straight games (April 26-28 in Minnesota and April 30-May 1 in St. Louis) and will be preceded by a three-game set with the Avalanche April 20-24.

Game times have not been released yet by the league.

The Blues will face Pietrangelo, who left after 12 years -- including the past four as captain -- when he signed a free agent contract with the Golden Knights on Oct. 12, for the first time in Vegas on Jan. 26. Pietrangelo returns to St. Louis for the first time March 12.

The Blues announced that there will be no spectators inside Enterprise Center through Jan. 31, which means at least the first four home games will not have spectators although the team is hopeful of entertaining fans for games at some point.

With the Blues temporarily going out west, it will mark the first time in 54 years (excluding the lockout season of 2004-05) that they will not play their archrival Chicago Blackhawks in the regular season.

Here is the full schedule: 

13 -- at Colorado
15 -- at Colorado
18 -- vs. SAN JOSE
20 -- vs. SAN JOSE
23 -- vs. LOS ANGELES
24 -- vs. LOS ANGELES
26 -- at Vegas
28 -- at Vegas
30 -- at Anaheim
31 -- at Anaheim

2 -- vs. ARIZONA
4 -- vs. ARIZONA
6 -- vs. COLORADO
7 -- vs. COLORADO
9 -- at Minnesota
11 -- at Minnesota
13 -- at Arizona
15 -- at Arizona
18 -- vs. SAN JOSE
20 -- vs. SAN JOSE
22 -- vs. LOS ANGELES
24 -- vs. LOS ANGELES
26 -- at San Jose
27 -- at San Jose

1 -- at Anaheim
3 -- at Anaheim
5 -- at Los Angeles Kings
6 -- at Los Angeles Kings
12 -- vs. VEGAS
13 -- vs. VEGAS
15 -- at Los Angeles
17 -- at Los Angeles
19 -- at San Jose
20 -- at San Jose
26 -- vs. ANAHEIM
27 -- vs. ANAHEIM
29 -- vs. ARIZONA
31 -- vs. ARIZONA

3 -- at Colorado
5 -- vs. VEGAS
7 -- vs. VEGAS
9 -- vs. MINNESOTA
11 -- vs. MINNESOTA
15 -- at Arizona
17 -- at Arizona
20 -- at Colorado
22 -- vs. COLORADO
24 -- vs. COLORADO
26 -- at Minnesota
28 -- at Minnesota
30 -- vs. MINNESOTA

1 -- vs. MINNESOTA
3 -- vs. ANAHEIM
5 -- vs. ANAHEIM
7 -- at Vegas
8 -- at Vegas

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Steen calls retirement "an emotional time"

Fifteen-year veteran forced to leave NHL because of lingering 
back issues, leaves a Stanley Cup champion with Blues in 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Alexander Steen has never been one to show his emotional side on or off the ice when it pertains to the sport he's played his entire life.

But there's a human element to us all, and it was on display for Steen on Tuesday.
Alexander Steen (left) is interviewed by Sportsnet's
Scott Oake after the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019.
The 15-year NHL veteran spoke for the first time since the Blues announced his retirement from the NHL last week, and the finality of being forced to call it a career because of a back injury that is causing him discomfort in everyday life now is enough to show the human side to a guy who always showed a stern side of him in the media eye.

The 36-year-old Steen, who had one year and a $5.75 million salary cap hit remaining on a four-year, $23 contract, wanted to prolong his career at least another season and see where things went from there. But multiple levels of degenerative herniated disks in his lumbar spine that allowed him to play through the injury last season and only one game in the Edmonton bubble against the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference First Round, it's an injury that simply wasn't responding to rehabilitation and treatment, and forced the Winnipeg native, who celebrated the birth of son Leon last week, to hang up the blades.

"It’s been an emotional time and obviously difficult with the injury," Steen said, at times fighting back tears. "I think there was time there in Edmonton when I started getting some different, uncomfortable pain where I knew that it was a little bit different of an injury and that it was probably more serious. We worked at it, and it just wasn’t bouncing back like other injuries do with time off or rehab and treatment and other things. That was probably the time I felt like it was the most serious and as that continued after Edmonton, I really tried different things and it just wasn’t coming around. Kind of ultimately brought me to this, where it’s not something you want to do as a player and mentally, you’re still there and your body’s just not allowing you to participate in the same way anymore."

After the season ended for the Blues following a six-game series loss to the Canucks, Steen returned to Sweden to see his two older sons. It was there that he was attemtping to rehab his injury, and in communication with wife Josefine, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, the Blues' medical team and other medical professionals, things never progressed to where Steen could feel good enough about returning for a 16th season.

"There's definitely times where you think this is what the outcome’s going to be but you’re hopeful that it’s not," Steen said. "But I don’t know when the exact ... there’s no exact date when that decision was made. I had good contact with our team doctors and our management, with Army and everybody. With just talking about how I was progressing, if I was, things I was dealing with in everyday life and ultimately, I just couldn’t get my body to respond the way I had been able to before."

And in the end, Steen walks away from a career that spanned 1,018 regular-season NHL games; he finished with 622 points (245 goals, 377 assists) and 91 Stanley Cup Playoff games (15 goals, 21 assists), including winning the Stanley Cup in 2019; he walks away a Stanley Cup champion and one of 348 NHL players to play in 1,000 or more games.
Steen began his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a first-round pick in 2002 and spent three-plus seasons with the Leafs before being traded to the Blues along with Carlo Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak Nov. 24, 2008.

Steen is fourth in Blues history in games (765), fifth in points (496), sixth in assists (301) and ninth in goals (195).

"It’s been emotional, this time, and it's given me a lot of time to sit and reflect on a lot of different things," Steen said. "I’m sure I’ll continue to do so and leading up to this, it was difficult to talk about just the fact that when you talk about it, it feels more finalized and decided, and I wasn’t comfortable doing that. I’m sure there will be more conversations with teammates, past and present and even alumni and people that have gone through this, reflect in that way. I do think, from what I have looked back over is how proud I am of the groups that we’ve had here and it was something I spoke to our team about the other day. Our organization in Toronto, too, was amazing to me when I get to there with the management group and coaching staff that believed in me and gave me a chance and allowed me to get going. To get here and everyone here from our ownership group and management, coaching staff, the city and community ... I know everyone says it, but I really felt at home from the start when I got here. It was just a really good fit for me personality-wise and how everybody was here and the support they gave the team because they don't really know guys like myself who just showed up. Everyone helped from day to day things to longer-term things and it’s always been so easy to live and play here in St. Louis.

"... Going back to the original part of the question, how proud I am of the groups that we were when I was here because from inside the locker room, we always shared that and we didn’t take that lightly. From wanting to play well for our city and our fans and people that support in that way to the alumni that have been here before us and really put the history in the jersey we wore on a nightly basis and how we respected that and wanted to keep moving that forward in a way. I’ll look back on lots of memories of even when we lost in the playoffs and those feelings are tough when there’s an empty void in yourself when you get knocked out of a playoff run. But there's times when we’ve looked at each other after games where we've been knocked out and we gave it what we had. Guys were banged up, injured, we gave each other what we had. I feel we all knew that. We had sort of a quiet confidence about ourselves. That's a Bortuzzo, line by the way. We did that for each other. There was a lot of those things I’ve been reflecting on more than the personal stuff, but obviously with all that comes that great day with the Cup and the city. I’m so grateful that we were able to do that together, everyone. It felt like we all did it together and that I think is such a special feeling."

It took 14 seasons for Steen to reach the pinnacle, and once he did it, the journey, for all intents and purposes, became complete then once he raised the Stanley Cup.

"It was an indescribable moment," Steen said. "For my family too, through my father (Winnipeg Jets great Thomas Steen), I knew how difficult it is to win, to even get the opportunity, to have teams that are capable of competing for it year after year, like we have here. I know we’ve had some upsetting times when we were knocked out early, but we played some tough teams in some tough series. I think it was because my father played 14 years, I don’t know if he felt as if he was knocking on that door, truly, and I felt like when we were here, we were. We were given that opportunity by our ownership group and our management group and that’s something that I haven’t taken lightly while I've played here. It’s been incredible, and to finally get there was, for myself, having lived and played here the amount of years and have the deep, meaningful relationships I have with all the people here, whether its past or present players or in the organization with everyone around, what we do for people in the city, restaurant owners, bar owners, police, firemen, everyone we've gotten to know, I knew how much we all wanted this. When we won, it felt we all did it together. That was what was so, I don’t know what word to use, but that’s why it was such an amazing feeling."

And it was Steen's line, a fourth line comprised of him, Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, that was a catalyst in the journey to win it all.

"I think we as a group, we just top to bottom knew what we had," Steen said. "Sounds maybe easy to say now knowing the outcome, but I still feel like during the start of the year when we were going through our tough times, it’s an interesting and fun year to reflect on because on how that season went. I still felt we weren’t playing with a lot of confidence at the start of the year, but we had a lot of new bodies and people from the start of the season the year before and we were kind of a confident group. 

"We kept talking and having conversations. It wasn’t showing, but afterwards, we can look back and see that something was building here anyways because we kept continuity and that conversation going. We believed we were a strong team, even though the standings weren’t reflecting it. Then a few things happened and it just kind of snowballed and we caught confidence on the ice. When we had confidence in the room and on the ice, we knew we were a good group and we were going to be tough to beat. In the end, you can’t control the results, you can’t control the outcomes, but I think we knew going into all four series that we were continuingly upping our percentage as far as our chance of winning this thing. Does that make sense? Is that complicated? It's weird when you don't have interaction."

Steen joins the list of a strong Blues alumni group. There's no decision yet whether he'll remain in St. Louis, but all indications appear to lead to that. He's going to in the immediate future do whatever it takes to get his health back to as normal as possible, raise his kids and even still be around the team for the time being, if at all possible. Working with the Blues would be the priority.
Alexander Steen raises the Stanley Cup during the Blues parade in 
downtown St. Louis on Market Street after winning Game 7 in Boston.

"Right now, I mean, up to this point, my focus has been on trying to get back to health again," Steen said. "So we haven’t had a ton of time to look at all those types of things and with my wife being pregnant and going through a pandemic, trying to organize all that stuff has occupied us pretty good. I definitely have an interest in things like that. It’s been emotional because I do love the game, the camaraderie, the relationships that you get through the game and those things don’t change. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer as far as the future and things like that, but it’s definitely something I’m going to look at in the future because it’s that much fun to be a part of an organization like this, for sure.
"Yeah, this is my team."

And as for moving forward, the Blues will be fine, Steen said, despite losing his veteran leadership along with Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Jake Allen.

"They’ll do great," Steen said of the Blues. "They have a tight team, a heck of a leadership group of guys and I’m excited to watch and follow and be a part of it a little bit from the outside more than I was before. Nothing’s changing. It’s a high-quality, character room and the guys know what it takes to win and they’ll get prepared and ready. It’s a fun group. Big part of the reason why this has been real emotional because it’s such a good group and I think they’ll do great things."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

NHL, NHLPA make it official: 2020-21 season to start Jan. 13

Sides come to agreement on 56-game schedule, season ending May 8; 
Blues placed in West Division and play divisional opponents only for one year 

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL and NHLPA made it official on Sunday: hockey's back.

The league and players' association announced on Sunday an agreement to play a 2020-21 regular-season schedule of 56 games that will start with training camps for non-playoff teams on Dec. 31, playoff teams slated to open camp on Jan. 3 and the regular season beginning on Jan. 13, with no preseason games, and ending May 8.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues will be on the ice Jan. 3 for the start of training camp and prepare 
for the 2020-21 season set to begin Jan. 13.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs, after being played out last season with 24 teams because of the sudden shortened season among the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), will go back to the traditional 16 teams in a best-of-7, four-round format and conclude roughly in mid-July (no later than July 15) with the plan of returning to a “normal” hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season, with training camps to open in mid-September and regular season beginning in October. 

The NHL and NHLPA will release the health and safety protocols, transition rules and critical dates calendar as well as the 2020-21 schedule in the coming days.

The current plan is to play games in home arenas with the understanding fans will not be permitted to attend in most, at least in the initial portion of the season. But league will be prepared to play games in one or more neutral venues, or bubble, like last season in Toronto and Edmonton, within each respective division should it become necessary and based on potential outbreaks of the virus, should they arise.

The Sharks are not permitted to hold training camp or play games in SAP Center based on the Santa Clara protocols and will open their camp in Arizona.

"The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-21 season, especially since the Return to Play (Plan) in 2019-20 was so successful in crowning a Stanley Cup champion," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play. And, as was the case last spring and summer, I thank the NHLPA, particularly executive director Don Fehr, for working cooperatively with us to get our League back on the ice."

"The Players are pleased to have finalized agreements for the upcoming season, which will be unique but also very exciting for the fans and Players alike," Fehr said in a statement "During these troubled times, we hope that NHL games will provide fans with some much needed entertainment as the players return to the ice."

Both the NHL and NHLPA will be "flexible and adaptable in the coming weeks to ensure compliance with directives from both local and national governmental and health authorities focusing on the health and safety of the players, other game-related personnel and the communities in which the league plays. The priority will continue to be focused on the health and safety of fans and players and club, league, NHLPA and arena personnel."

For the upcoming season, teams will be re-aligned into East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times while each team in the North Division consisting of an all-Canadian division will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.
For the Blues, who will be in the West Division for one season before returning back to the Central Division, they will play the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

The schedule, to be released in the near future, could see teams play an opponent two consecutive times in one venue in order to minimize travel.

The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs, with intra-divisional play in the first two rounds (No. 1 vs. No. 4, No. 2 vs. No. 3). The four teams that advance to the semifinal round would be seeded by their regular season points total, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed in one series and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds meeting in the other.
Players have the option to opt out of the season should they have concerns, like inside the bubble last season, of playing or being a higher health risk because of the virus. The opt-out deadline is Dec. 24 for the non-playoff teams and for the Blues, that deadline is Dec. 27.

Training camps consist of 36 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies because of the shortened training camp, and with a taxi squad in play this season, teams are required to carry at least three goalies at all times this season between the active and taxi squads. Rosters will be the normal 23 but teams will be allowed to carry 4-6 taxi squad players, which will consist of players normally playing in the American Hockey League.

Taxi squad players can practice and take part in team activities and player meetings and could travel to road games but can't play in games. They will be paid AHL salaries.

The trade deadline will be April 12 for the upcoming season, the Seattle Kraken expansion draft will take place July 21, the NHL Draft is expected to take place July 23-24 and the start of free agency, normally July 1, will be July 28.

Friday, December 18, 2020

NHL, NHLPA come to terms on 56-game season for 2020-21

Training camps to open Dec. 31 for non-playoff teams, Jan. 3 for playoff 
teams with season to begin Jan. 13; Blues expected to play in Pacific Division

ST. LOUIS -- It appears -- finally! -- as if hockey will hit the ice.

And soon.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association reached a tentative deal Friday night to hold a 56-game season, pending approval from both sides and Canadian health officials, which would begin Jan. 13, per multiple reports.

Training camps would open Dec. 31 for the seven non-playoff teams from last season that didn't make it into the bubble, and Jan. 3 (including the Blues) for the remainder of the 24 teams. 

The Blues are reportedly going to play in the Pacific Division along with Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Arizona, Colorado, Vegas and Minnesota. It's also been reported that the top four teams from each division will make the playoffs and advance against one another until each division champion prevails into the Stanley Cup semifinals.

The NHLPA held a conference call Friday night to discuss the framework of it all, and the league's Board of Governors could hold a vote as soon as Sunday.

The main sticking point now appears to be getting approval from the five provinces in Canada before the league can go ahead with the plan. As part of a one-season only realignment, an all-Canadian division with seven teams has been proposed along with Western, Central and Eastern Divisions to make up the remaining 24 teams from the United States.

It's yet to be determined whether teams would play in their home arenas or in a proposed divisional hub city, with the expectation of an all-divisional schedule to be released, meaning from the Blues' perspective that they'll face each of their divisional opponents eight times.
Teams will hold camp for 10-14 days, and head straight into the regular season with no exhibition games beforehand.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said the majority of Blues players are already in town and skating on their own in preparation, aside from a couple that were sent overseas to play during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Armstrong said he and the players are ready to get going.

"You bet I am," he said Thursday. "It's been a long off-season, a strange off-season. We try and eliminate the white noise of in-bubble, out of bubble, how many games are going to (be) played. We're focused on Jan. 3rd having some form of training camp and starting on the 13th. The one thing that excites me as a manager and part of an organization like the Blues is the true feeling of leaving something on the table last year as an organization. The number of players we have here skating and their singular focus on getting off to a good start has been impressive. I can't wait for them to be able to put their skates on for real and go and prove that they're the team that I think that they can be."

The Blues, who won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history in 2019 with a seven-game series win over the Boston Bruins, were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference First Round at the bubble in Edmonton in six games.

Thursday, December 17, 2020


Tarasenko training, on course for five-month reevaluation; Steen's 
departure no bearing on Dunn contract status; Feltrin, Ginnell to remain in roles

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko is on course.

That was Doug Armstrong's message on Thursday regarding the Blues' top goal scorer after announcing the retirement of veteran wing Alexander Steen.

Tarasenko had a third surgery on his left shoulder Sept. 17 and is on target for the five-month reevaluation timeline the Blues gave when Armstrong announced Aug. 26 that Tarasenko would need to go under the knife again after the surgery he initially had after being injured against the Los Angeles Kings Oct. 24, 2019 wasn't a success.

Tarasenko, who played in just 10 regular season games last season (three goals, seven assists) and four games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (two round-robin games and two games in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks), has been at the rink rehabbing on and off the ice with the hope of missing minimal time for the start of the 2020-21 season.

"He's doing very well,," Armstrong said of the 29-year-old. "Just celebrated the three-month anniversary of the surgery. He's on track. He's here, he's working out, he's got a smile on his face. He's a player to be around and have at the rink right now in the sense that he's excited that the surgery went well and he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. We're on track to get him back, reevaluate in five months and see where he's at. We're excited knowing when he is healthy and in the lineup, we're that much of a stronger team."

The Blues could use Tarasenko's salary cap hit of $7.5 million when he begins the season on injured reserve but would need to account for that cap space and move salary once activated, so it's unlikely they'll use it to sign a more expensive free agent.

* Dunn contract status -- Armstrong spoke of how the Blues will be able to use the cap savings they get from Steen being placed on long-term IR. They'll get $5.75 million in savings, which will put the Blues just over $4 million under the $81.5 million salary cap ceiling. 

However, gaining the cap space has nothing to do with the progression of contract talks for defenseman Vince Dunn, who remains unsigned as a restricted free agent.

"No, they're not connected," Armstrong said. "Vince, like sort of all our contracts, they're behind the scenes. We're working on getting something done and I know Vince hopes it happens soon, I know I hope it happens soon, but nature will take its course and when it does, we'll have an announcement."

* Feltrin, Ginnell to stay -- With Bill Armstrong off to Arizona as general manager of the Coyotes and leaving open his role as assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting, the Blues are staying the course.

That means amateur scouts Tony Feltrin and Dan Ginnell will lead the amateur scouting department, at least for the 2020-21 season.

Feltrin and Ginnell were thrust into those roles late in the game when Bill Armstrong took the role in Arizona and the NHL Draft, held virtually this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, was also held Oct. 6-7.

"Tony Feltrin is going to maintain that role for us for this year," Doug Armstrong said. "It's such a strange time in society but it's more also in the number of games that aren't being played certainly outweigh the number of games being played in amateur hockey. The continuity of Tony Feltrin and Danny Ginnell leading our charge there is the way we're going to go for this season."

The Blues selected left wing Jake Neighbours with their first-round pick (No. 26) this year.

* In need of veteran leadership -- With Steen's retirement, Jay Bouwmeester's pending retirement, Jake Allen traded to Montreal and Alex Pietrangelo leaving via free agency to Vegas, the Blues head into the new season in search of a newer leadership group.

Steen, the longest-tenured Blue with nearly 12 seasons, and Bouwmeester were the elder statesmen on the roster at 36, Allen with seven seasons in St. Louis and Pietrangelo the fourth overall pick in 2008 with 12 years of service, the Blues are left with a bit of a void in experience and leadership.

"That's just the nature of pro sports," Doug Armstrong said. "There's the terminology the king is dead, long live the king. Really what we need to do now is hope that next tier of players has gained the knowledge from Bouwmeester, have gained the knowledge of Steen on what it takes to win and what it takes to lead. I'm not big in you need to verbalize. What you need to do is you have to do it and have them follow. Bouwmeester and Steen retired as Blues, obviously gave their body to the Blues and to the NHL and I think our players can learn from that. With Petro and Jake too, they were important players on our team. I'm hoping that everyone's learned from these guys on what it took to be successful and now they have to lead the charge. The Montreal Canadiens have the famous torch that's been passed and quite honestly, the torch is being passed."

Armstrong mentioned Jaden Schwartz and Tarasenko as those who will be elevated, along with Ryan O'Reilly and Brayden Schenn. 

For the record, center Tyler Bozak becomes the elder statesman on the Blues at 34. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson is also 34 but eight months younger than Bozak.

Back injury forces Steen to retire

Veteran who helped Blues to first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018-19, spent 
past 11-plus seasons in St. Louis, had one year remaining on contract

ST. LOUIS -- A persistent, lingering injury issue that hasn't seemed to alleviate itself enough has pushed forward Alexander Steen to look to the other side of his hockey life.

And in turn for Steen, who spent the past 11-plus seasons with the Blues, the team announced his retirement from the NHL on Thursday after 15 seasons.

Forward Alexander Steen holds up the Stanley Cup during a parade in
downtown St. Louis to honor the team's title. 
Today's a bittersweet day I think for myself and for the St. Louis Blues organization," general manager Doug Armstrong said. "First I'd like to congratulate Alexander Steen on a fabulous NHL career, getting to 1,000 games, winning a Stanley Cup, being a part of this franchise for as long as possible is fantastic. Everyone would like to leave the game on their own terms and unfortunately, Alexander's back is forcing him into retirement. That's a difficult spot. Also myself and the Blues organization would like to congratulate Alexander and Josefine on the birth of a bouncing baby boy last night and wish them nothing but the best.

"On the ice, he was a player that I think that management and the coaching staff, and more importantly, his teammates knew what they were going to get on a nightly basis. He didn't play a sexy game or an easy game, but he played a winning game. He was willing to sacrifice his body. In his prime, he touched both ends of your special teams, a player that would close games out for you by blocking shots, by winning those ugly wall battles to secure leads. He's had some huge playoff goals for this franchise and that's what I'll remember, just the way he played the game. He played the game "the correct way" every night. ... Off the ice, Steener became a spokesman in the locker room. He matured and because the voice of reason, someone that I could trust as a manager to get the organizational message but more importantly, the coaches could trust."

The 36-year-old Steen, acquired by the Blues from the Toronto Maple Leafs along with defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo on Nov. 24, 2008 for forward Lee Stempniak, played just one of the Blues' Western Conference First Round series games against the Vancouver Canucks because of what the Blues describe as "multiple levels of degenerative herniated discs of his lumbar spine" after playing in all three round-robin games inside the Edmonton bubble.

With Steen stepping away, the Blues save $5.75 million in cap space that brings them under the $81.5 million cap ceiling. Steen was going into the final year of a four-year, $23 million extension he signed Sept. 23, 2016 and was due a base salary of $3.5 million that will still be paid. 

It is understood that Steen will go down as an injured player for this season and thus be placed on long-term injured reserve after he comes in prior to the season and fails his physical; he would need to sign retirement papers for it to be officially considered a retirement but in that case, his contract is not obligated to be paid out. The Blues' projected cap hit, according to, was at $82,675,515 with Steen and forward Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) on LTIR and accounting for $13.25 million in cap space, but saving Steen's cap hit will give them flexibility to sign restricted free agent Vince Dunn, and the likelihood of Tarasenko and his $7.5 million cap starting the season on LTIR is probable. There could still be some flexibility to add another scorer, depending on how much Dunn will cost. One intriguing name that is in play is Mike Hoffman, who is an unrestricted free agent and had 59 points (29 goals, 30 assists) with Florida last season, but with the cap savings, it puts the Blues at just over $4 million under the cap and when they resign Dunn, it doesn't leave much for prolific scorer like Hoffman unless the Blues shed more salary. They could also save on Tarasenko's $7.5 million cap hit at the outset but would need to account for it when he comes off LTIR.

"The positive on that is that it doesn't have to be spent in the next 48 hours," Armstrong said of the cap savings stemming from Steen. "There's in-season and off-season LTI room and it's quite complicated. I have Ryan Miller, who we just made assistant general manager, that's his field of expertise and we're walking through all those different things knowing now that it is a reality. But we could have some money to spend here between now and the start of the season when Alexander will go on LTI or we could potentially move some money and get more money if we do it in-season. I don't want to get too in-depth because it is complicated, but there could be opportunity for us to add players either prior to the season or into the season.

"What happens there, we've obviously gone through all the medical stuff with him. He's talked to our doctors, he's talked to doctors in Sweden. We've come to the conclusion that there's nothing he's going to be able to do to get his back ready to play again. That doesn't go on until he comes in and he fails the medical. Vladi will fail the medical. Vladi will fail the medical also, meaning they're not ready to start. At that point, you can put them on LTI and that's off-season LTI or wait to put them on in-season LTI, which clears up different cap spaces. It's a complicated formula, but he won't go on LTI either until training camp when he fails the medical or into the season and we do it. You can't do it right now basically is what I'm trying to say."

As for Steen, he played in 1,018 regular-season games (765 with St. Louis, 253 with Toronto) and will finish with 622 points (245 goals, 377 assists), of which 496 came with the Blues (195 goals, 301 assists). His games played is fourth in Blues history, ninth in goals and fifth in points. Steen has also played in 91 Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with St. Louis) and had 36 points (15 goals, 31 assists), and helped the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship in 2018-19.

However, Steen's role began to diminish and his points production also fell off the past four seasons from 52 points in 2015-16 to 51 the following season, then 46, 27 and a career-low 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 55 games this past season.

But Steen has never been able to shake the injury bug and only played all 82 regular-season games once in his NHL career (2006-07 with the Maple Leafs).

Steen tried to play through the back injury during the NHL Return to Play after the 2019-20 season was paused because of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) but only played in Game 2 against the Canucks before the Blues were eliminated in six games.

"I think it's a whole career," Armstrong said of the back injury and how it evolved. "... When you talk to the doctors, you do all the MRI's, you do all the work that they do and it comes back a certain amount of information you're given, I was shocked quite honestly how long he did. That's a testament to him."

Steen, who scored an NHL career-high 33 goals in 2013-14 and had an NHL career-high 64 points and 40 assists in 2014-15, played an important role, arguably the most important role, with Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev accounting for the Blues' fourth line during their Cup run in 2019.

"If it's a percentile, I'd say it's 100 percent," Armstrong said. "You're only as strong as your weakest link and I'm not saying Alex was our weakest link, but he made sure that winning was more important than anything for him personally. He and I had talked ... I remember a conversation we had at Starbucks once and we had traded Paul Stastny and he felt that we were closing the window on his chance to win a championship and he was honest. He said, 'I have to win, I want to win. I need that in my resume.' And we said as an organization, 'If you can just trust the process, we do have some ideas on how we can improve our team and he bought into that, and in buying into that, we brought in players that were going to take his ice time and he never batted an eye on that. As a competitor, he wanted to be out there at the end of every game; as a competitor, he wanted to be on the first power play; as a competitor, he wanted to be playing 19 or 20 minutes a night. But that never superseded his desire to be part of a championship and winning team, and when you saw the sacrifices that he made in 2019 allowing players like [Jaden] Schwartz to grow, allowing players like Tarasenko to grow and supporting them whether it was new players like [Brayden] Schenn and [Ryan] O'Reilly, bringing [David] Perron back, he was the voice that was telling everybody that if they sacrificed a little, we'll all have a memory for a lifetime. I'm so happy that he does have that memory that I hope will last he and his teammates a lifetime." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alexander Steen (left) celebrates with teammate Alex Pietrangelo after
Pietrangelo scored in Game 7 the Stanley Cup Final.

Steen will take the necessary time to heal and continue his role as a father and perhaps one day, maybe get back into the NHL with the Blues or someone else in some form of capacity.

"We've discussed more importantly his health right now," Armstrong said. "When the season ended, the bubble ended, he wanted to get back and see his children in Sweden. He got back there, he was rehabbing hoping to play. He and I had a lot of conversations on how that was coming. I'm thinking, 'Give it some time, he'll come back,' and he says he can't get out of the car, he can't tie his shoes. So at that point I understood that we had to be understanding that sometimes the clock runs out. So then I wanted to work with him on what the next phase was. He's someone I could certainly see staying in the NHL, but he and Josefine just had their second child. There's a lot more in life than just hockey. I think if he wants to stay in the game, he has all the pedigree to coach, to manage, to really do what he wants."

Steen was originally selected by the Maple Leafs in the first round (24th overall) of the 2002 NHL Draft.