Things have been rather tenuous between forward Vladimir Sobotka and the St. Louis Blues this offseason. Negotiations to get a deal done stalled and the Blues chose to go the route of team-elected salary arbitration, which was somewhat a rare occurance prior to this offseason. It sounds like Sobotka doesn't want to wait around to see what the arbitration ruling will look like.
According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, Sobotka has signed with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong would not confirm whether or not Sobotka had signed a KHL deal when addressing the media Thursday, but did explain what the club had done to try to bring Sobotka back. In a particularly surprising statement, Armstrong laid out what the team was offering the veteran left wing.
Armstrong on Sobotka....says he offered contracts ranging from 1-5 years. 3yr deal offered north of $3 million per #stlblues— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) July 10, 2014
As a restricted free agent, he wouldn't be able to leave the Blues for another NHL team unless traded as the fact that he's headed to arbitration makes him ineligible to be signed to an offer sheet by other teams. The KHL option certainly could be more lucrative for Sobotka at this point and there could also be some hurt feelings after months of talks went nowhere.
However, knowing what the offer looks like now, it's hard to see what kind of angle Sobotka would have taken to earn much more money than what the Blues were willing to shell out aside from the KHL possibly giving him more.
The restricted free agent was coming off of a three-year $3.9 million deal with the Blues and was likely expecting a raise after posting 33 points and playing an important defensive role for the club. The Blues were willing to give it to him, but that apparently wasn't enough. It seems like a more than reasonable offer, however.
That leaves the Blues without a very talented depth player now.
Sobotka posted a 56.7 Corsi for percentage last season according to ExtraSkater.com, while he managed a 3.6 positive relative Corsi percentage, showing that the Blues were possessing the puck better with him on the ice. His possession metrics were even better in the playoffs.
In a year where most players have been coming back to the NHL from overseas and including recent Blues signee and former KHL star Jori Lehtera, Sobotka heading the opposite direction may speak volumes about what happened between the him and the club.
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that Sobotka had recently cut ties with agent Steve Bartlett, who represents a number of high-profile players in the NHL. Rutherford also reported that the Blues and Bartlett had been negotiating for the last four months to no avail on a new deal for Sobotka.
With such positive momentum thanks to the signings of Paul Stastny and Lehtera, losing a player like Sobotka that plays a valuable role with no compensation in return is certainly a setback.
The club also has an important contract negotiation to finalize with restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz, while they also have to be mindful of a number of expiring contracts after the 2014-15 season including that of talented youngster Vladimir Tarasenko.
Sobotka may not be a name player, but with what he has done for the Blues in his four seasons with the team, he will certainly be missed.