Vladimir Sobotka is a name that many Blues fans have heard a lot of since the end of last season, but not a face they’ve seen since the end of the 2013-14 season. ‘Vladdy’ left the Blues because they couldn’t come to an agreement on a salary, and headed East for the KHL. Before he left, he was granted a one-way contract by the league’s arbitration. Since he never served that year, he still owes the Blues one before he can become an unrestricted free agent in the NHL again.
An Update on the St. Louis Blues and Vladimir Sobotka
Now that Sobotka has spent three seasons in Russia, he is showing signs of wanting to come back. That news is very exciting for most Blues fans, who have fond memories of the gritty, 5’10” forward who was very exciting to watch when he piggy-backed the team’s bottom six.
Sobotka played in 247 games as a Blue before he left for the KHL. He saw an average of around 16 minutes of ice time through four seasons, jumping between the second and third line. In those games, Sobotka’s grit and hard work got him a total of 101 points, with only 29 being goals. This was something that the Blues loved about Sobotka. Not only was he a hard worker and a physical forward, but he provided a lot of help for what was then a not-so-skilled bottom six.
If he comes back, the Blues will want that to be something he can bring to the table again. He would most likely be placed on the left wing beside Patrik Berglund and one of the many Blues wingers who switch out games; depending on how players like Ivan Barbashev, Kenny Agostino, and Ty Rattie progress through the off-season. No matter who he’s by, Sobotka will be assigned the same task, and that’s to produce assists and be a dominant, physical force for that line. Judging by his KHL numbers, he’ll do this with ease. In three seasons in Russia Sobotka has produced a total of 65 assists and 102 points overall. If he can bring the same level of play back to the NHL, he could become a staple for the Blues bottom six, which is something they have been looking for since he left for Russia.
A lot of Blues fans were excited to see rumors circulating about Sobotka possibly returning this off-season, but that obviously didn’t happen. It was reportedly due to the Russian team he signed with, Avangard Omsk, removed the ‘out’ clause from his contract. The only way for him to get out of his contract would be to personally pay the club two-thirds of his contract, which would be paying $2.68 million. Per the NHL collective-bargaining agreement, the Blues can’t get financially involved in the contract.
The club was hoping that Sobotka would decide to buy himself out and return to the NHL, but those hopes died quickly too. At the trade deadline, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong received a lot of questions regarding Sobotka. So much so, that Armstrong eventually said he was done talking about Sobotka, and is waiting to see what happens.
However, rumors that Sobotka is coming back to the NHL have begun circulating again. These rumors are starting earlier than they have in earlier years. His KHL contract ends at the end of this season, which is why the rumors have begun so soon.
BTW, regardless of being in KHL, Sobotka (STL) and Valeri Nichushkin (DAL) need to be protected or exposed in NHL expansion draft in June.
Although there’s a lot to be excited about, there is one big worry that the Blues have. Since he only owes the Blues one year, any return would be enough to run that year off his contract. He would then become an unrestricted free agent. To lose a player that would play such a big role in their lineup would be hard for the Blues. Because of this, they have reportedly began to offer the forward a contract extension when he comes back. The details of this contract offer aren’t public, and the likelihood of this happening aren’t known either. Considering Sobotka left the NHL due to money, it’s likely that the deal would be a bit overpriced. Considering Berglund’s new contract, which gave him a five-year extension, it’s likely that Sobotka receives at least two to three years.
Another worry that the Blues have is that Sobotka still needs to be protected or exposed in the upcoming expansion draft. He is almost guaranteed to be left exposed. His one-year contract will probably be passed over by the new Vegas Golden Knights, but Sobotka could be a good bait for the Blues, if they decide they want to keep all of their exposed players.
It is not guaranteed that Sobotka will return to the NHL. It’s not guaranteed that he will agree to play for the Blues for an entire season or more. It’s not guaranteed that he is still Blues property after the expansion draft. What is guaranteed, however, is that the Blues will work hard to convince Sobotka to stay. He could play a solid role in their lineup, and could possibly even become a veteran that the Blues’ young players can come to look up to.