Vladimir Sobotka might not be coming back to the NHL after all. The president of the KHL’s Avangard Omsk said Sobotka “should” be back with the Russian club next season. Sobotka’s NHL rights are owned by the St. Louis Blues, who will have him under contract for one-year at $2.725 million should he return.
St. Louis Blues fans who were hoping to see Vladimir Sobotka back in the NHL next season might be disappointed by the latest news.
According to a report from Fedor Fedin, Avangard Omsk president Vladimir Shalaev said the 27-year-old center “should” be staying in the KHL next season with his club. Last season with Omsk, Sobotka scored 10 goals and 38 points in 53 games, all the while playing top-line minutes.
In the NHL, Sobotka was mostly utilized as a depth center, and on a team that has seen some depth players step up in the past year, it’s likely he would be back in a similar role if he were to return to the Blues.
One reason for Sobotka’s exit from North America and signing in the KHL was a difference in opinion over what his value to the Blues was. After the two sides could not come to a deal during Sobotka’s restricted free agency last season, he signed a deal with Avangard that reportedly paid him $4 million last season. He was, however, handed an NHL contract through arbitration. The contract, a one-year deal worth a reported $2.725 million, is the only NHL option available to Sobotka right now and if, or when, he returns to North America, his rights will be owned by the Blues for the duration of that one-year deal at the arbitrated salary.
Sobotka isn’t the first player to jet to the KHL due to a contract dispute, as a similar situation occurred with former Nashville Predators winger Alexander Radulov. Radulov, who was a young standout for the Predators, left for the KHL because they were offering him a better wage. Radulov eventually returned to the NHL late in 2011-12, only to spend the remainder of the year with Nashville, become an unrestricted free agent and jump back to the KHL.
Sobotka was selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, 106th overall, by the Boston Bruins, but subsequently shipped to the Blues in the offseason prior to the 2010-11 campaign for the right to defenseman David Warsofsky.