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Whenever Vladimir Sobotka decides to return to the NHL, he owes the St. Louis Blues at least one year of service. That was the result of the qualifying offer sent his way last summer and the arbitration hearing that awarded the forward a one-year, $2.725 million contract. The only problem? The restricted free agent has two years left on a deal with Omsk of the KHL.
Now that both St. Louis and Omsk have seen their seasons come to a conclusion, GM Doug Armstrong is hoping to lure Sobotka back as soon as next season, which would be a nice start to a roster remodeling now that head coach Ken Hitchcock isn't going anywhere.
According to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch, Armstrong met with Sobotka’s agent, Petr Svoboda, during the World Championships in Prague and was told that Omsk would be able to pay Sobotka his full salary despite the falling ruble.
“I had a good talk with his agent,” Armstrong said. “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.”
Sobotka’s tax-free $4.5 million per year deal with Omsk is certainly better than the taxed $2.725 million he’s owed by the Blues if he ever returns. If he chooses to stay in the KHL another season, Armstrong will have to wait until next May for Sobotka’s annual out-clause to be an option.
Omsk president Vladimir Shalaev denied the existence of any such clause in Sobotka’s contract, though he added, via TASS, “If there was a special situation, we could to meet the wishes of the player. But now - not the case.” He said Sobotka “should” be back with the team for next season.
According to Rutherford, Sobotka has two weeks from the end of the Worlds to inform Omsk what he wants to do. That deadline is this coming Sunday.
Whatever happens with Sobotka, this year or in the future, Armstrong and the Blues will be waiting.
“If he decides to come back to the NHL, we’ll welcome him back with open arms," he said. "And if not, we’ll address it a year from now. He knows he’s going to come back through St. Louis.”
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