Vladimir Sobotka’s departure to the KHL on Thursday was a bit of a surprise to the St. Louis Blues. The center inked a three-year deal with Omsk will earn him over $4 million tax-free. The team responded by re-signing Steve Ott for two years and $5.2 million.
The Blues had heard the KHL rumors when they began negotiating an extension in the spring, but that didn't deter them from aggressively trying to bring back the 27-year old Sobotka.
“This is a business decision by Vlad, that I respect,” said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. “It doesn’t change my opinion on him as a man.”
If you ask Sobotka's agent, former NHLer Petr Svoboda, a deal could have been had for an extra $300,000.
With the KHL being a legitimate option, Svoboda and Armstrong began negotiations.
“He 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.
According to Armstrong, he offered Sobotka deals in the 1-, 3- and 5-year range with a salary larger than $3 million. That two-year offer would have had the center waiting another season before he could cash in as an unrestricted free agent.
Due to the qualifying offer they sent him, the Blues will retain Sobotka’s rights if and when he decides to make an NHL comeback, which could happen beginning next summer. Svoboda told the Post-Dispatch that his client's KHL contract contains an an out-clause, giving him the opportunity to return each off-season.
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