Every off-season there are stories and events that leave you scratching your head. In this case, it has been going on for a few years. Is Vladimir Sobotka worth the hassle the St. Louis Blues are going through to bring him back? Does he want to return to the KHL instead? Just what is going on?
The Blues have enjoyed quite a bit of success the past few seasons. It’s never been about one player carrying them nightly but more of a collective group. Sure Brian Elliott had his run last year, but overall, the Blues have made their way in NHL by using the entire squad. It’s that complete team that took them all the way to the Western Conference Final last season. Which makes it all the more interesting that after two years a depth center is still in the forefront of conversation. You would think we were talking about a 30 plus goal scorer; that is not the case.
Sobotka listed as No. 9 on Blues' roster. So if he shows up, he and Schwartz (No. 17) will have swapped numbers since Sobotka was last here.
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) September 15, 2016
Vladimir Sobotka in the KHL
The past two seasons Sobotka has played 97 games in the KHL for Avangard Omsk. Putting up at a total of 72 points, 28 of them being goals. So he has proved to be able to produce still despite any distractions off the ice each summer. At 29, the Czech Republic native is in the prime of his career. Despite a few injuries this past year which included a dislocated shoulder and a most recently a clavicle injury scare. Sobotka continues to play his same style of hockey. It’s a big reason why some people continue to be on his side despite the never ending saga of his contract. Everyone loves a player who leaves it all on the ice. Though after roughly five months of the issue with his KHL out clause still being a problem, fans are starting to turn. Sobotka’s agent Petr Svoboda continues to state that the talks are “continuing” and the word is that he is reporting to the Blues training camp after the World Cup of Hockey. The Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong also remains confident that he will report to camp. Could it be by the time this issue is resolved Sobotka is seen more as a villain than a beloved returning player? The Czech Republic national team plays Thursday against the Americans. So this odd story could have a conclusion in the coming days.
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) September 15, 2016
So it comes back to the main question at hand, is Sobotka worth all this nonsense? The answer to that depends on what you’re expecting from him. For a team like the Blues filled with younger up and coming talent, maybe it’s time for them to cut their losses. At this stage of his career, he has reached the pinnacle of his talent. What you’re getting from him now is exactly that. The return just isn’t worth leaving a roster spot open on a player who doesn’t make or break a team. Where it really hurts is that this could have an impact on a few prospects who are still trying to prove their worth. Most notably Ty Rattie, Landon Ferraro, and you could even throw in Dmitrij Jaskin who had a really tough year last season. Though on the plus side of things Sobotka is very strong on the faceoff and pretty steady in penalty kill situations. He can chip in on goals at times but the time is now to give the youth a chance. The Blues could trade his NHL rights and the $2.7 million contract, but there has been zero talk of that.
The question of Sobotka’s value varies by who you ask. It very well may be one of the more debated talks going on in hockey that no one is talking about. The fact that so little is known in a time where everything is known in sports is what keeps driving this story. We expect to have every detail in the palm of our hand, and Sobotka remains to be a mystery. But looking at the Blues point of view, they are just hoping the wait will pan out in their favor. To show they have the team’s best interest in mind.