Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sobotka returns to Blues after signing extension

Forward inks three-year, $10.5 million extension that 
begins next season, will play out arbitration contract this year

ST. LOUIS -- The on again, off again merry-go-round of Vladimir Sobotka has finally reached a climax.

And after a three-year hiatus playing on the wider sheets of the Kontinental Hockey League when he was looking for more money at the time, Sobotka is back in the NHL, and he will pick up with the Blues where he left off following the 2013-14 season and join the team in Carolina after signing a three-year contract extension worth $10.5 million ($3.5 million AAV).
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Sobotka returns to St. Louis after signing three-year, $10.5 million
extension on Thursday.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that Sobotka will be paid $4 million next season, $3.5 million in 2018-19 and $3 million in 2019-20. 

Under the current agreement, Sobotka's salary arbitration-awarded one-year, $2.725 million contract kicks in immediately and will expire after this season; he will be eligible to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sobotka, 29, passed a physical on Thursday in Raleigh and signed the contract and could be in the lineup as soon as Saturday against the Hurricanes.

Sobotka, who wore No. 17 in his first stint with the Blues, will wear No. 71 with Jaden Schwartz occupying No. 17.

"It's certainly nice to have that behind us," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We had hoped it wouldn't get to that point three years ago. But we tried to stay in contact to make sure we didn't fray the relationship and I think that paid off this time when we were able to bring him back."

Alexander Steen, Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jay Bouwmeester, Patrik Berglund, Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Reaves and Dmitrij Jaskin are the leftovers from the roster that last played with Sobotka. Jake Allen was a teammate in 2012-13.

"Interestingly, he knows probably half the guys on the team, but he doesn't know the coaches," Armstrong said of Sobotka. "So it's going to be a whole new environment that he's walking into and I think that's really good. I know Mike (Yeo) is excited about having him; he remembers competing against him and I think that's the type of player that all coaches want to have."

There was traction for Sobotka's return when he and his KHL club, Avangard Omsk, mutually agreed to terminate his contract which was set to expire on April 30.

And after failed attempts with three previous agents, Armstrong was able to come together on a suitable contract with Craig Oster of Newport Sports Management.

"Craig did a fabulous job, I think, of understanding our point of view, giving me Vladi's point of view, and we tried to really find some common ground," Armstrong said.

Sobotka became a restricted free agent after the 2013-14 season and was seeking a contract of at least $3 million or more per season, but he and the Blues went to arbitration, where the arbiter awarded the $2,725 million decision on a one-year deal.

Sobotka instead went overseas and signed a three-year deal with Avangard for a number reported to be in the $4 million range per season despite the knowledge that if he were to return to the NHL one day again, he would have to do so with the Blues for at least the one arbitration-awarded contract.

Sobotka was all set to return to the Blues for the start of the 2016-17 season after playing for the Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey, but the out clause he worked into his original KHL contract was omitted when he unknowingly reworked it through agent Petr Svoboda when Sobotka's contract was reworked following a downturn in the Russian economy.

In turn, there was a buyout clause, but it was reported to be a number that would have had Sobotka playing for nothing this season, and in turn, he elected to go back to Russia to fulfill his KHL contract, further agitating an already frustrated fan base for Sobotka leaving in the first place.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Sobotka (17) last played in the NHL and for the Blues during the
2013-14 season.

Sobotka finished with 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) in 61 games his last season in the NHL in 2013-14; he has 123 points (35 goals, 88 assists) in 381 games for the Blues and Boston Bruins, and 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 40 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Sobotka had 102 points (37 goals, 65 assists) in 138 KHL games, including nine goals and 21 assists in 41 games this season.

With the uncertainty of center Paul Stastny, who is believed to be recovering from a broken foot sustained from a shot of Tarasenko in a game March 21 at Colorado, Sobotka's career faceoff percentage of 56.3 percent will come in handy.

"It was a difficult three years, but at the end of the day, (Sobotka's) back here, he's still in a really strong part of his career and we're excited to have him," Armstrong said.

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