St. Louis Blues fans have learned not to hold their breath when it comes to the reported return of center Vladimir Sobotka, but it appears he’s really, truly returning in time for the upcoming season.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford, GM Doug Armstrong said Sobotka’s agent has confirmed the 29-year-old will be coming back to the NHL for the 2016-17 campaign.
But as has been the case with this saga throughout the past off-season, into the regular season and on through this summer, the confirmation from Sobotka’s agent via Armstrong only comes after a report that Sobotka was considering a return to the KHL’s Avangard Omsk following a coaching change the club made.
This marks consecutive off-seasons in which Sobotka’s return to the NHL has been a major summertime talking point for the Blues, though it appears this time he’ll actually be coming back to the club. There were rumblings that Sobotka would be returning to the Blues during the off-season ahead of the 2015-16 campaign, but nothing came of it and Sobotka remained in the KHL despite having a reported out-clause in his contract.
Sobotka has played in Omsk for the past two seasons as the result of a contract negotiation gone sour with the Blues. Sobotka, then coming off of a nine-goal, 33-point season, wanted a raise from the $1.3 million he had been earning, and he went to arbitration with the Blues. The result was a one-year, $2.725-million deal in St. Louis, but Sobotka left town and signed a reported three-year, $12-million deal with Avangard.
However, Rutherford reported Sobotka is thought to be in his native Czech Republic simply awaiting the proper paperwork filings in order to terminate his KHL deal and report back to the NHL.
When he returns, he’ll be under contract on the one-year, $2.75-million contract that was awarded through arbitration — it’s a deal he owes to the Blues as part of his return. That will make things a bit tighter in St. Louis in terms of the salary cap, as the Blues only have $3.96 million to work with, according to CapFriendly. It shouldn’t cause a long-term problem, though, as Sobotka will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Over the past two seasons in Omsk, Sobotka has notched 28 goals and 72 points in 97 KHL contests. During his seven NHL seasons, he contributed 35 goals and 123 points in 381 games.
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