Vladimir Sobotka is back with the Blues, and he’ll be with the team through the 2019-20 season.
The St. Louis Blues announced late Thursday afternoon that forward Vladimir Sobotka will rejoin the team for the remainder of the 2016-17 season, playing for the pro-rated portion of the $2.7 million-dollar salary that an arbitrator ruled he must play under for one season upon his return to the NHL. Sobotka, who has spent the past three seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, has also signed a three-year, $10.5 million-dollar deal that will kick in next season.
Sobotka spent four seasons with the Blues from 2010-14 before departing over a contract dispute three summers ago. He’ll provide depth for the Blues’ impending playoff run, though it’s unclear exactly how he’ll do that. Until Tuesday night’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets–which perhaps non-coincidentally coincided with the return of forward Jori Lehtera— the Blues had gotten very strong performance out of their forwards.
Sobotka’s speciality is as a faceoff guy, so it’s very possible that he’ll bump impressive rookie center Ivan Barbashev from the lineup if he does indeed become one of the club’s top 12 forwards (and one would have to assume that he will, otherwise the Blues wouldn’t have made the effort to bring him back).
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Sobotka will join the Blues for Saturday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he’ll wear number 71. Sobotka had worn 17 prior to his departure, but Jaden Schwartz then took that number to honor his sister Mandi, who wore that number while playing collegiately at Yale before tragically passing away at the age of 23 from leukemia in 2011.
The return of Sobotka makes the roster status of players like Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, and Magnus Paajarvi uncertain for 2017-18 and makes it a near certainty that the Blues won’t tender a contract to Nail Yakupov this offseason. In addition, it would be a fairly major surprise if fourth-line winger Scottie Upshall gets re-signed this offseason, as Sobotka is basically a more expensive (but slightly younger) version of Upshall.
It will be interesting to see how Sobotka holds up over the length of the deal. The “little guy with gumption,” as Darren Pang calls him, plays an exceptionally physical game, but that has often caused his small body (a generously listed 5-foot-10, 197-pound frame) to wear down easily. Sobotka has never played more than 73 games in a season over seven NHL campaigns.