Reports of Vladimir Sobotka staying in the KHL may have been greatly exaggerated. At least according to St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong, they are.
Armstrong spoke with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford Thursday and said that he has not received confirmation from Sobotka’s agent regarding the center’s contract status. It was reported by Avangard Omsk’s official webste earlier this month that Sobotka would, in fact, be back with the KHL club for the upcoming season. Armstrong went on to call the reports of Sobotka staying in the KHL, “premature.”
The news that Armstrong hasn’t received confirmation from Sobotka’s agent comes as somewhat of a surprise, especially considering Armstrong seemed to more than back the 27-year-old pivot’s choice, regardless of what that choice was.
"I had a good talk with his agent (at the World Championship)," Armstrong told Rutherford when the report of Sobotka staying came out. "The agent told me that the money he made last year, they guaranteed him for next year. He’s got two weeks to decide what he’s going to do. I said ‘We’d love to have him back.’ I understand if the economics are so great in the KHL and he has to stay. I respect that. Then we’ll talk again a year from now."
At this point, the speculation surrounding Sobotka’s future has been dragging on for close to a month. Sobotka has one-year remaining on an arbitrated deal with the Blues that must be completed upon his return to the NHL. He left the Blues for the KHL before the deal was awarded through arbitration, however, so he has yet to suit up for St. Louis under the deal.
The reported worth of his KHL deal is $4.5 million, while the arbitration deal will pay Sobotka around $2.7 million.
Sobotka’s KHL deal reportedly has an out-clause at the end of each of the three seasons which would allow him to return to the NHL should he so choose which is why some believed he would be NHL-bound after the precipitous drop in value by the ruble. However, as Armstrong told Rutherford, the guaranteed money likely helped Sobotka come to his decision. There was also reportedly a deadline for Sobotka’s choice, which was said to have passed at the end of May.
In 53 games with Omsk last season, Sobotka scored 10 goals and 38 points and racked up another four goals in 10 World Championship games for the Czech Republic. In 2013-14, Sobotka scored a career-high nine goals and 33 points in 61 games for the Blues.