Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Arbitration date set for the Blues and Sobotka

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: July 10, 2014| Contact  |

Vladimir Sobotka will be a Blue for the 2014-15 season, assuming he plays in the NHL next season. On Wednesday, it became a bit clearer as to when a deal will completed with the free-agent forward.

A deal between the Blues and Sobotka will have to be finalized by early August after the Blues filed for arbitration on the restricted free agent last Saturday. That arbitration hearing, if needed, will take place on July 21, meaning that a deal will be in place before, or shortly after that date.

The deadline for NHL players to file for arbitration was last Saturday. Sobotka, who had the right to file for an arbitration hearing for the first time in his career, chose not to exercise the option. However, teams were allotted 24 hours to file for arbitration on their players, and the Blues chose to go that route with Sobotka.

Sobotka, 27, is coming off of a three-year, $3.9 million contract, which he signed with the Blues in 2011. The forward made $1.4 million in the final year of his contract with the Blues. He is guaranteed to make at least 85-percent of that in arbitration. But there is more to the Blues’ decision than a financial difference.

By filing for arbitration against Sobotka, the Blues guarantee several things. For starters, Sobotka has zero chance of being in a different NHL team’s lineup next season. If he remains in the NHL, he will be a member of the Blues for at least one more year, no matter what happens in arbitration. With the Blues filing against the forward, he can no longer accept an offer sheet from another team, something he would have been able to do, had the two sides negotiated without the interference of a third party.

If the two parties do not reach an agreement prior to the case date, the arbiter will take into account Sobotka’s value and performance with the Blues and then determine a fitting salary number.

The Blues also put themselves in a good position salary-wise with their free agent, who, if the case does in fact make it to July 21, will be required to accept whatever financial compensation the third-party arbiter decides upon. However, Sobotka will be able to choose between a one-year or two-year deal in that scenario. He would be an unrestricted free agent after the contract expires, no matter which option he chose.

A member of the Blues for the past four seasons, Sobotka tallied a career-high 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) last season, which will be taken into account by an arbiter. Prior to last season, Sobotka’s highest point total with the Blues was 29 points, so it’s reasonable to believe that any raise would be minute.

The Blues realize as much, but want a deal to be finalized as early as possible with restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz also in need of a new contract. By filing for arbitration, the club guarantees that negotiations do not drag past early August, and that they can get all of their ducks in a row prior to training camp.

Of course, the two sides could reach a deal before the arbitration hearing, which certainly seems plausible. But by exercising the option, the Blues have a bit more certainty regarding the future of one of their two remaining restricted free agents.