Sobotka signed in KHL because 'there was no other way out'; Blues happy to fill hole with Ott

Jul 15, 6:00 PM

Vladimir Sobotka recently made the decision to sign a three-year, $12-million contract with Omsk of the KHL instead of accepting a reported one-year, $2.7-million dollar deal to remain with the St. Louis Blues.

In an interview with iDNES.ca in his native Czech Republic, Sobotka reveals he felt there was quite simply no other choice to be made.

"I'd rather stay in the NHL, but there was no other way out," he said. "We could not agree on a contract. [The Blues] thought that I would wait for arbitration, I did not, unfortunately ... St. Louis had not been able to make such an offer that both sides happy. "

Sobotka added the decision to make the jump to the KHL was based on wanting "to prove that I am more" and "go to a team where [they] will respect me." 

The deal with Omsk does allow Sobotka to opt out after each season, meaning St. Louis' version of Rodney Dangerfield can return for the 2015-16 NHL season if he so chooses.

For now, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told NHL.com the team is more than happy to have Steve Ott - recently signed to a two-year contract - to fill the hole left by Sobotka:

Losing Soby [Sobotka], he's a good player, he played in every situation. When we had to move him up the lineup because of injuries he held his own. But I think the coaching staff here is really grateful that Doug [Armstrong] kept a relationship with Steve Ott because Ott was arguably our best forward in the playoff series against Chicago. He was really effective. He played left wing, took faceoffs at center, killed penalties, played net-front on the power play. He played every situation.

They're different players, but what we lose in Soby, the speed and patience with the puck, we balance that with the way we play and the way Ott fits ... The nice thing about both Soby and Ott is they can play anywhere in your lineup -- left wing, center, right wing, third line, first line, up and down the lineup. I think it balances out. What we're really grateful for is Doug kept the lines of communication open with Steve and his camp.

Proponents of advanced stats may disagree with Hitchcock's assessment of Ott's performance; in six games against the Blackhawks (a small sample size, of course), Ott posted a 47.4 Corsi For rating at even strength, as compare to Sobotka's team-leading 58.2. 

Here's a look at the player usage chart from that series via Extra Skater:

But hey, that's probably where the whole respect thing comes in, right?

Jul 21, 10:11 AM

Blues awarded 1-year, $2.725 million contract with KHL-bound Sobotka through arbitration

Jul 21, 10:11 AM

The St. Louis Blues were awarded a one-year deal with KHL-bound forward Vladimir Sobotka as a result of a club-elected salary arbitration on Monday, the club announced

The under-rated 27-year-old checking forward recently signed a three-year deal worth $4 million per season in the KHL with Avangard Omsk. Sobotka's KHL deal includes an out-clause following every season, although the hard-nosed forward will be required to honor the contract awarded by the arbitrator as a result of Monday's hearing should he elect to return to the NHL. 

According to a report from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sobotka will receive $2.725 million for the season in which he returns to the NHL.

"We are looking forward to having Vladimir in a Blues uniform when he returns to the NHL," said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong in a team release. "We wish him the best of luck in the upcoming season."

Feature photo courtesy of US Presswire/Dennis Wierzbicki

Jul 11, 11:10 AM

Sobotka signs with KHL: Blues and Sobotka were only $300K apart

Jul 11, 11:10 AM

Apparently the St. Louis Blues and restricted free-agent Vladimir Sobotka were only $300,000 apart in salary negotiations before Sobotka signed with Omsk of the KHL.

“[Blues general manager Doug Armstrong] started at $2.4 million (for one season) and he came up to $2.7 million, so he gave me his best number,” Sobotka's agent Petr Svoboda told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We were at one year, $3 million. So basically it was over $300,000. There was no room for negotiation. It was one year at $2.7 (million) — take it.”

Although Sobotka's three-year, $4-million deal with Omsk contains an out clause allowing him to go back to the NHL following each season, it's likely the 27-year-old will spend 2014-15 in Russia.

The Blues' arbitration hearing with Sobotka will proceed as scheduled on July 21 in Toronto.

[H/T ProHockeyTalk]

Jul 10, 5:44 PM

Sobotka reportedly signs with KHL: Daly says arbitration hearing will proceed as planned

Jul 10, 5:44 PM

Vladimir Sobotka may be planning on playing next season in the KHL, but as far as the NHL is concerned, his rights still belong to the St. Louis Blues.

Sobotka is a restricted free agent in the NHL and the Blues filed to take him to salary arbitration after he and the team were unable to agree on a new contract. The arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 21 and the league will proceed regardless of whether anyone is present on behalf of Sobotka.

Sobotka, 27, emerged as one of St. Louis' more versatile depth forwards last season, posting positive Corsi For relative numbers and seeing significant ice-time in both power play and shorthanded situations.

Despite this, it is unlikely Sobotka's career-best 33-point season (and 123 points in 381 career games) will earn him an arbitration sum close to the $4 million KHL contract he reportedly signed.

Jul 10, 1:07 PM

Sobotka reportedly signs with KHL: Blues GM respects player's decision

Jul 10, 1:07 PM

Despite reports surfacing that St. Louis Blues forward (and restricted free agent) Vladimir Sobotka signed a three-year contract with Omsk of the KHL, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is still planning to attend Sobotka's arbitration meeting on July 21 in Toronto.

“An award will be given and that will be his contract for the ’14-15 season,” Armstrong told reporters Thursday (via ProHockeyTalk). “We hope that he’ll be at training camp under that contract. If he’s in the KHL, that contract will toll until future years.”

Armstrong also revealed that in June the Blues offered Sobotka multiple deals, including a multi-year contract worth more than $3-million per season.

Should the 27-year-old native of the Czech Republic, who had a career year in 2013-14, posting nine goals and 33 points, choose to ply his trade in Russia, Armstrong says he'll respect his decision.

“I just want to emphasize that this is a business decision by Vlad that I respect,” said Armstrong. “It does not change my admiration for him as a man and how he plays and what he’s accomplished and what he’s going to accomplish.

“I don’t want to turn this into a personal thing or get it to that point, because it’s not like that.”

Jul 10, 11:10 AM

Report: Blues' Vladimir Sobotka signs with Omsk of the KHL

Jul 10, 11:10 AM

It looks as though Vladimir Sobotka isn't too concerned with the St. Louis Blues taking him to salary arbitration.

The 27-year-old enjoyed a career year in 2013-14, notching nine goals and 33 points, while adding another three points in the postseason.

A restricted free agent, Sobotka earned $1.4-million in the final season of his contract, and is scheduled to face the Blues in an arbitration hearing in Toronto on July 21.