Monday, July 21, 2014

Blues receive one-year reward with Sobotka via arbitration

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: July 21, 2014| Contact  |

Photo courtesy of Scott Neer, TSNPhotograpy

After meeting with a third-party arbiter on Monday morning, the Blues announced that they had received a one-year reward on free agent forward Vladimir Sobotka.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the one-year ruling comes with a $2.725 million compensation allotted to the forward. But currently, that number is meaningless.

Sobotka, who is coming off of a career-high 33-point season with the Blues, has signed with Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League, and has already reported to Russia for the beginning of the team’s training camp. confirmed this weekend, citing Sobotka, that the Czech does have considerable interest in returning to the NHL at a later date, but currently has no desire to do so if he has to sport the Note. The Blues are uninterested in trading his rights, so the forward has few options.

Because the Blues elected weeks ago to take Sobotka to arbitration, they were able to maintain the rights to the forward until he decides to return to the NHL. Barring the trading of those rights by the club, upon his return, Sobotka will owe the Blues one season before being able to move to a different NHL club.

Under the terms of his contract, Sobotka can opt out of his KHL deal and return to the NHL following either of the first two seasons with Omsk. But it’s believed at this point that he may not be willing to do so unless his NHL rights are traded.

Things soured between the Blues and Sobotka following the season when the two parties began trying to close the gap and reach a deal. Sobotka wanted a one-year, $3 million deal, but never received such an offer from St. Louis. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong offered a variety of different contract options, including several variations for a long-term deal that would pay out more than $3 million per year. The club also offered a one-year $2.7 million deal to Sobotka when it became clear that the forward was not interested in agreeing to anything long-term.

But when the club refused to raise their offer to $3 million, Sobotka exercised his only remaining option, signing a three-year, $12 million deal with Omsk of the KHL.

“In June, we had offered him a multi-year deal. Three, four, or five of his choice, and north of $3 million. The last offers were a one-year deal at $2.7 million, or a two-year deal at $3 million. Both didn’t get it done.”

Sobotka, who made $1.4 million in the final year of his three-year, $3.9 million deal with the Blues, was awarded a nice $1.325 million raise by the arbiter. While it was still less than the $3 million Sobotka was looking for, it could be large enough to persuade the forward to return to the NHL next season.

"We are looking forward to having Vladimir in a Blues uniform when he returns to the NHL," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said in a statement. "
As much as he would like to have Sobotka suiting up with his club this season, Armstrong stands by his decision to not cave to the former free agent's demands, rendering that type of decision a bad precedent for future negotiations.

“We have to at least work in somewhat of the framework of the (collective bargaining agreement),” Armstrong said last week. “If we work outside of that based on people leaving, then everyone will threaten to leave. It’s just bad business for us. We have to do things that are hard decisions and they’re difficult.”

If Sobotka does, by an off-chance, decide to remand his decision and return to the Blues following next season, it would likely be his last season with the club. The forward will be an unrestricted free agent following the one year he owes upon his return.