Alex Steen Signs Extension, But Has He Earned It?

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 As per TSN, the St Louis Blues have locked up forward Alex Steen to a 3-year, $17.4m contract extension.  The new deal will see Steen earn an average of $5.8m per season – big money, no matter who you are in the NHL.

According to Capgeek.com, this deal places him among some big names for next season, in terms of cap-hit comparables:

  • Brent Burns ($5.76m), 21GP 9-7-16
  • Tyler Seguin ($5.5m), 31GP 18-15-33
  • Travis Zajac ($5m), 33GP 6-8-14
  • Jeff Skinner ($6m), 23GP 12-9-21
  • Martin St Louis ($5m), 34GP 13-19-32
  • Blake Wheeler ($5.8m), 36GP 11-14-25
  • Milan Lucic ($6m), 34GP 11-13-24
  • Joe Pavelski ($6m), 34GP 13-18-31
  • Jordan Staal ($6m), 34GP 7-7-14
  • Logan Couture ($6m), 34GP 10-20-30
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ($6m), 34GP 8-17-25
  • Taylor Hall ($6m), 29GP 12-16-28
  • Matt Duchene ($5.5m), 30GP 15-13-28
  • Jason Pominville ($6m), 36GP 15-8-23
  • Jordan Eberle ($6m), 36GP 11-18-29

This group, beyond Martin St Louis, doesn’t have any genuinely elite NHL players present, although the likes of Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and perhaps Matt Duchene and Jeff Skinner aren’t far off, but overall it is a very talented group.

The averages of this group work out as follows:

  • Games Played: 30
  • Goals: 11
  • Assists: 14
  • Points: 25
  • Salary: $5.77
  • Age: 25.6

Alex Steen, 29, has 33 games played so far this season, with 22 goals, 14 assists, 36 points and now a shiny new $5.8m contract.  Taking into account solely his play this season, he’s severely underpaid for the scoring he’s providing the St Louis Blues, particularly on his current $3.36m contract.

History

Contracts should never be handed out on the basis of just one season of great success however, as numerous examples throughout NHL history have shown – Shawn Horcoff, David Clarkson, Ville Leino to name just a few, and they’re useful players, simply overpaid compared to their actual on-ice worth.

How does Steen compare to this group over the last several years?

The following table displays each of the above named players and their per game totals since 2009/10, the average of their totals and how Steen’s totals compare:

alex steen comparison points per game 5 years

 

I was somewhat surprised at the results of this table.  I was expecting to see Steen compare pretty unfavourably to this group, but in fact he’s exactly average in points per game, and significantly above average in goals per game.

As an aside, Taylor Hall’s offensive talent is head and shoulders above everyone else in this table sans St Louis, and he’s only 22 – that’s pretty scary, and evidence that both he and St Louis are significantly underpaid for their contributions.

However, as has already been much discussed, Steen is experiencing an out-of-this-world season in 2013/14, would that not be effecting his averages?

The following table displays the same data as the one above, minus each player’s results from the 2013/14 season so far:

alex steen comparison points per game 4 years

 

Steen is still hanging in there!  He has dropped some in points per game, but is still “in the range”, and his goal scoring is remarkably consistent within the confines of this admittedly small sample size of players.

What does this mean?

What this means, is that Steen’s new deal actually can’t be deemed much of an overpay, if at all, relative to his offensively comparable peers.  I came into this piece prepared to write-off the deal as a vast overpay based on one season’s worth of bloated shooting percentages, but actually the deal appears to be fair market value for a player like Steen.

Add in his defensive capability and intangibles, and the Blues have locked down a good player, in the midst of a great season, without getting themselves hamstrung on a long-term deal, although his age is a consideration – he is 3-4 years older than the average age of the players listed above, approaching the point in his career where forwards generally speaking begin to decline.

What with the cap increasing, the Blues can afford to pay Steen for his efforts – he will be their highest paid forward next season – though they will have to be mindful of their upcoming free agents who potentially need re-signing, such as Roy and Berglund.  It was only a few short months ago that the Blues were having cap trouble, forcing them to trade away David Perron – now in the midst of a career year in Edmonton – to re-sign star defender Alex Pietrangelo, and they will have to be careful to avoid such a situation occurring again.

Whatever happens with Alex Steen next season, and it is highly likely his scoring will regress, one thing he likely shouldn’t be regarded as is vastly overpaid.

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  • anon

    Burns should not be included in your comparables because he played as a defenseman until March 2013. As you can see, his goals and assists are lower than comparably paid forwards, which reflects his role (until late last season, when he was switched due to injuries) as a defenseman. His salary (contract signed in August 2011) also reflects his role as a defenseman, not a forward.

    • Chris Hext

      I was torn about Burns, but to be honest his offensive production in the time he has played at forward suggests a guy (in admittedly a very small sample size) who would likely be in the same bracket as these other players. You are right about his contract reflecting his previous value as a defender, but as I state, I don’t think his offensive production is that much different as a forward from the other comparables.

      I was thinking about taking another look at this without Burns, just to see how the averages change. They likely wouldn’t change a whole lot, but he is proving a controversial addition to this comparison!

      Thanks for the read and the comment :)