Someday, Vladimir Sobotka will return to the NHL and fulfill the year of service he owes the St. Louis Blues following the 2014 arbitration decision that was made a week after he signed with Omsk of the KHL.
He could have returned this past season, but Sobotka elected to remain in the KHL and posted an 18-goal, 34-point season and helped Omsk to within a game of the conference final.
The 29-year-old Sobotka could have left after the 2015 IIHF World Championships via an out clause in his contract, but chose against making an NHL return after signing a three-year, $12 million-plus deal to play in Russia in 2014. Once again, it’s the off-season and speculation has been rife about whether or not he’ll be in the Blues’ lineup this fall.
Sobotka’s agent, Petr Svoboda, has consistently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford and Blues GM Doug Armstrong that his client would be coming back to the NHL for the 2016-17 season. Omsk’s GM, however, told Russian media last week that the forward would be back with his side after he recovers from off-season back surgery. “Forget about St. Louis and other nonsense,” he added.
On Thursday, following the naming of Alex Pietrangelo as the team’s new captain, Armstrong reiterated that Svoboda has told him Sobotka will be a Blue this season and will join the team following the World Cup of Hockey, where he’ll represent the Czech Republic.
Armstrong, who is general manager of Canada’s World Cup entry, will get an early look at Sobotka when the two sides meet on the opening day of the tournament in Toronto. And like Blues fans everywhere, he sounds like he won’t believe the player will be back on the roster until he sees it.
“It’s one of those ones where I understand everyone’s nervousness because he’s not here,” Armstrong said via the Post-Dispatch. “But he’s not going to be here until after the World Cup, so I think the questions are going to persist until he gets off the plane at Lambert (Airport) and comes into the Mills or to Scottrade. When he does that, this will finally be behind us.”
St. Louis currently has 13 forwards under contract and a little over $3 million in cap space, according to General Fanager. Sobotka’s one year of service will mean $2.725 million added to the Blues’ cap.
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