Vladimir Sobotka is set to rejoin the Blues for a playoff run.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reported Thursday morning, the St. Louis Blues are close to a multi-year deal with forward Vladimir Sobotka that would bring him back to the NHL immediately and keep him in the Note for the foreseeable future. Sobotka was with the Blues from 2010-14, but departed for the KHL in the summer of 2014 over a contract dispute and has remained there since.
An arbitrator ruled that Sobotka would have to play one season for the Blues at $2.7 million upon his return, and while he was scheduled to play that year out this season before an issue with his Russian contract kept him overseas, he’ll now apparently earn the pro-rated portion of that deal while providing depth to the Blues during their upcoming playoff run.
Sobotka has 37 goals and and 65 assists over the last three seasons (138 games) for Avangard Omsk of the KHL. Unless he’s really refined his offensive game in Europe–which, as Blues fans have seen with guys like Joakim Lindstrom, usually doesn’t carry over when players return to the NHL–he’ll be more of a grinder and faceoff specialist back in North America. Sobotka’s career high in goals for a season in the NHL is nine, and his career high in points is 33. In addition, because of his diminutive size (a listed 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds) and the physical style with which he plays, he’s generally been an injury risk. He’s never played more than 73 games in an NHL season.
More from Arch Authority
- St. Louis Cardinals: Randal Grichuk to begin Double-A rehab stint
- John Brebbia deserves a shot as the St. Louis Cardinals’ closer
- St. Louis Cardinals place Randal Grichuk on DL, recall José Martínez
- St. Louis Cardinals release RHP Corey Baker from organization
- St. Louis Cardinals activate Kolten Wong and Kevin Siegrist from DL, option Luke Weaver and Alex Mejia to Triple-A
It’s totally unknown how Sobotka would fit into the Blues’ plans for the rest of this season. It’s highly arguable that inserting a player who hasn’t played in an NHL game since April 2014 could absolutely destroy the momentum they’ve built up over the last month. Lacking a ton of elite skill, the Blues are a team that’s risen to third place in the Central Division by buying into Mike Yeo’s system and developing strong chemistry between lines. The insertion of Sobotka, who’s already a total unknown at this point and has developed a reputation as a difficult player to deal with on top of that, could be a recipe for disaster.
The unfortunate reality beyond this season is that with every forward on the roster except Scottie Upshall under team control following this season, Sobotka’s presence is going to cost a good player a job. It may just be that the 33-year-old veteran Upshall, who has been one of the team’s most dependable role players over the past two seasons, doesn’t get re-signed.
More likely, though, is that Sobotka will end up taking playing time–and possibly a roster spot– away from one of the guys who have really established themselves down the stretch this season, whether it be Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, or Magnus Paajarvi. With Sobotka providing little value at the NHL level beyond his effectiveness in the faceoff circle, one would think that he’d be inserted at that position, so with Paul Stastny, Jori Lehtera, Paul Stastny, and Kyle Brodziak all under contract for next season, one would think there’s a real chance that Barbashev is set back by this signing.
Of course, the Blues may lose a young forward in the expansion draft anyway, so perhaps they’ll need to replace someone. But no matter what, it’s a risky proposition to bring back a 30-year-old forward who hasn’t played in the league in three years and expect him to be an upgrade over all the young talent that’s not been assembled.