By Jeff Ponder
(KSDK Sports) St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is proving that he is devoted to the team's core.
The Blues have locked up impending UFA Alex Steen to a three-year contract extension, reportedly worth $17.5 million ($5.8 million cap-hit). Both Steen and Armstrong were unavailable for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Steen is on the final year of a four-year, $13.45 million contract that he signed in July 2010. He is scheduled to gross $3.57 million this season and will earn more than a $2 million raise when his new contract kicks in next season.
Currently the Blues' goals and points leader, Steen is set to smash his career-high 24 goals set in 2009-10. Through the first 33 games of this season, Steen has posted 22 goals and 36 points with a plus-13 rating.
Compiled with his impressive offensive numbers, Steen's defensive play has earned him early Selke Trophy buzz. He averages 2:04 of shorthanded ice time, which ranks first among Blues forwards. His 20:43 of average time on ice in all situations ties him for 17th among NHL forwards with New York Islanders superstar John Tavares.
It's no surprise that the Blues signed Steen to an extension before the halfway point of the season. Looking ahead to the 2014 free-agent class, Steen would have been a highly coveted forward, joining Patrick Marleau, Tomas Vanek and Marian Gaborik on the list.
After a new television deal was reached in Canada in November, the NHL is expected to see its salary cap rise from $64.3 million this season to about $71 million in 2014-15. This gives the Blues more cap room than last summer, which saw the franchise barely able to squeeze newcomer Brenden Morrow and defensive leader Alex Pietrangelo under the allowed ceiling.
Steen has played most of the season on the wing with T.J. Oshie and David Backes on the top scoring line, but an injury to Backes this week saw the Winnipeg native move to the center position. He began Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks with Oshie and Magnus Paajarvi rounding out the first line.
Steen was acquired by the Blues along with defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Lee Stempniak on Nov. 24, 2008. Stempniak has since moved on to play for the Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames.
Steen will officially sign his new contract Thursday morning, before Armstrong holds a press conference to officially announce the signing.