4. Will Vladimir Sobotka be back?
This is a story that has been talked about for over two years now, and there still seems to be no immediate end in sight. Vladimir Sobotka left the Blues two summers ago to play for Avangard Omsk of the KHL, this after Sobotka and the Blues engaged in a contract dispute that ultimately would have been over just $300,000. Sobotka,, who sought a $3 million-dollar deal, was awarded $2.7 million in arbitration, and he’ll have to play for that salary if he returns this year.
The fact that Sobotka’s return is still uncertain with training camp scheduled to start Saturday is deeply concerning. Sobotka and his agent have said all summer that he hopes to return to the NHL this season, but he’s still attempting to exercise the out clause in his KHL contract, so far without success. It doesn’t help that the “little guy with gumption”, as Darren Pang calls him, is currently playing for the Czech Republic in the World Cup of Hockey, and thus will end up being late to training camp even if he miraculously is able to resolve his contract issues within the next six days.
It seemed intriguing last week when Sobotka was listed on the Blues’ training camp roster, but later that day his fans were knocked down when he told reporters at the World Cup that he’s “had enough of it. It’s my agent’s job to to keep talking and we’ll see.”
If Sobotka doesn’t make it back, the Blues will have another spot in their regular forward lineup to fill, meaning that two players among Ryan Reaves, Ty Rattie, Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, Landon Ferraro, or any of the tryout players that the Blues are bringing to camp could end up playing on a nightly basis. Whereas Reaves, Rattie, and Jaskin were expected to be the guys to make the initial 23-man roster along with Sobotka, there would be another spot open for players like Paajarvi, Ferraro, Chris Porter, Eric Nystrom, and T.J. Galiardi to battle for if Sobotka doesn’t show up.
While Sobotka does a lot of things well–wins face-offs, bounces between positions and lines without issues, and injects physicality into the game–he does have very obvious issues with creating consistent offense and staying healthy (as we already saw during the World Cup, when he suffered a clavicle injury). At this point, maybe it’s in the Blues’ best interest if the two sides just move on, as all of the players named above might more closely fit the speed/finesse model of play that the Blues are trending toward this season.