It appears that the Vladimir Sobotka saga is finally over, as he’s reported to his KHL team in Russia.
A saga that has lasted more than two years without any resolution seems to have hit a major bump in the road. Vladimir Sobotka, who may have had his contract dealings more heavily covered than any other bottom-six forward in the history of the game, has apparently decided to play out the final season of his contract with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk, rather than returning to the St. Louis Blues–as they publicly believed he would all offseason–for the 2016-17 campaign.
There was no clearer sign of that than on Wednesday, when Sobotka was a major paparazzi target as he returned to Russia following his participation in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey for the Czech Republic team:
For what it’s worth, Sobotka was still listed on the Blues’ training camp roster as of early Wednesday early afternoon, and the team had made no statement about his status.
Avangard Omsk also posted video on YouTube of Sobotka arriving at their facility and taking part in his first practice of the season with the team:
Sobotka will be freed from his contract at the conclusion this season, but since he’s turning 30 next year and will have been out of the NHL for three straight seasons, it’s highly debatable whether the Blues will even want to bring him back next year. As the forward corps trend younger, there’s going to be less desire for an aging, undersized, injury-prone, checking forward who is at best a third-line player. Whenever the Blues officially announce that Sobotka won’t be playing for them this season, it should be interesting to see if GM Doug Armstrong provides any insight about what his plans are for Sobotka going forward.
With Sobotka out of the picture, the Blues now have $3.3 million available in cap space, which could help them in signing one of their veteran professional tryout players (T.J. Galiardi, Eric Nystrom, Chris Porter, or Mike Weber) or making a move at the trade deadline.