Vladimir Sobotka is already on his way to the KHL to play for Avangard Omsk, but he and the Blues went ahead with the team-elected salary arbitration hearing Monday. The veteran forward was awarded a one-year contract from the arbitrator, which is what Sobotka will have to honor whenever he returns to the NHL. He won't be able to sign elsewhere within the league until that contract is honored.
Sobotka and the Blues went through a rather uncomfortable negotiation over several months. Sobotka fired two agents in the process, eventually rehiring Petr Svoboda (the first agent fired) before signing with Omsk.
Svoboda told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the two sides could not settle a $300,000 gap in contract negotiations.
“[Blues GM Doug Armstrong] started at $2.4 million (for one season) and he came up to $2.7 million, so he gave me his best number,” Svoboda said. “We were at one year, $3 million. So basically it was over $300,000. There was no room for negotiation. It was one year at $2.7 (million) — take it.”
Armstrong acknowledged that $2.7 million was the Blues' last offer for one year, because the team would be unwilling to pay more knowing that Sobotka would then be an unrestricted free agent next summer, but added that a two-year proposal paying $3 million per season was also on the table.
The Blues will certainly miss Sobotka next season and his tremendous two-way skills. The 27-year-old forward appeared in 61 games last season and posted a career-best 33 points. He proved to be an important depth forward and was a top performer in the playoffs.
“We are looking forward to having Vladimir in a Blues uniform when he returns to the NHL,” said Armstrong in a statement. “We wish him the best of luck in the upcoming season.”
Whenever it is that Sobotka returns, and it is expected he will at some point, he will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after he completes his arbitrator-awarded one-year contract.
The value of the award will be announced by the arbitrator within 48 hours.