The St. Louis Blues’ longtime two-way forward Alexander Steen announced his retirement on Thursday, Dec. 17, marking the end of a storied career that stretched over 15 seasons and 1,018 NHL games.
Early Days in Toronto
The son of Winnipeg Jets’ legend Thomas Steen, Alex was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 24th overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft. Making his mark with Västro Frölunda HC in his native Sweden, he registered 38 points in 23 games in the J20 league during his draft season, adding 26 games playing with men in Sweden’s top league. The season following, he would notch the most goals (10) and the most assists (14) by any junior player playing in Elitserien.
The Maple Leafs took their time developing Steen, and would not call on his services until the 2005-06 season. But he made his debut early and played most of a full campaign, jumping out with 18 goals and 45 points as a rookie (though in a loaded rookie class with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby at the top, Calder Trophy votes were hard to come by). He would continue his success in Toronto, ultimately playing parts of four seasons there, scoring 50 goals and tallying 126 points in his first 253 NHL games.
Then, the Maple Leafs executed one of the most regrettable trades in their franchise’s history. They shipped Steen, along with young defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for forward Lee Stempniak. The deal seemed like an overpay at the time, and since then, it has only looked more and more positive for the Blues.
Blues Franchise Great
Steen became a centerpiece in the Blues rebuild that would make them one of the most competitive teams of the 2010s. He established himself quickly as a defensive forward, winning votes for the Selke Trophy for the first time in his first full season with the Blues (2009-10). He’d receive Selke votes seven times in his career.
Steen would be a consistent player for the Blues throughout his career, but he reached his personal pinnacle from 2013-2015. In those two seasons, he totaled 126 points in 142 games, received votes for the Selke Trophy in both seasons (and even received Hart Trophy votes in 2013-14), and he represented his nation in the Olympic Games, scoring a goal and three assists in six games en route to a silver medal.
When veterans like David Backes and Troy Brouwer departed St. Louis after the 2015-16 season and the team seemed to be restructuring again, only Steen remained, signing a four-year extension. While the $5.75 million average annual value would become troublesome, Steen continued to play an important role. As he aged, he accepted a relegated fourth-line role and was a tremendous leader there, playing a vital part in helping the Blues’ franchise win its first-ever Stanley Cup in what would become his penultimate season.
Aging, dealing with injury, and relegated to fourth-line duties, Steen would struggle to make his mark in his final season, with just 17 points in 55 games before the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the campaign. Entering the 2020-21 season, which would have been the final one on his current contract, his $5.75 million price tag looked like the Blues’ worst contract. But rumors spread that Steen might spend most or all of the season on the long-term injured reserve, and Steen himself confirmed the severity of his injury by announcing his retirement and ending the speculation.
Going Out on Top
As if retiring as an Olympic silver medalist and Stanley Cup champion weren’t enough, Steen will also retire as a career leader in a number of franchise categories for the Blues. He sits 9th in goals (195), 5th in points (496) and 4th in games played (765). And the night before announcing his retirement, Steen and his wife Josefine welcomed a baby boy to the family. Look for another Steen to be drafted in the 2039 Draft.
Steen’s back issues forced him to retire at age 36. With the trade of Jake Allen, the sudden apparent end to Jay Bouwmeester’s career, and the free agency departure of Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues have lost many of their longest-tenured veteran leaders. Now the team that lifted the Stanley Cup just one season ago will be looking to restructure and find the next Steen-type player who can lead them into the future.