Blues’ blunder likely ends possibility of trade with Edmonton

Remember all of those optimistic columns about a potential trade between Edmonton and St. Louis for the No. 2/3 centre the Oilers would love to add?

There was a complication on Thursday, as the Blues lost the excellent Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL, potentially for the next three seasons.

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Sobotka was an outstanding centre.

At even-strength, he was capable of playing tough minutes, and despite that consistently outpaced his team in terms of out-shooting the opposition. He wasn’t just an excellent five-on-five player; he played in all situations, including both special teams.

Just 5’10”, the solidly-built (197 pound) pivot was a consistent physical presence. We’ve talked about him as a two-way threat and he was in the truest sense – he posted 33 points in 61 games last season, which is a pretty decent number for a supporting player.

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He was also the best faceoff man in the NHL last season, winning 61.9 percent of his draws.

The Blues

General manager Doug Armstrong tacitly criticized Sobotka’s willingness to consider a KHL offer, and implied that the Blues’ refusal to meet his demands had some higher principle at its heart.

“The League goes on. No one person can be more important than the fabric of the CBA,” Armstrong was quoted as saying by Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski.

Yeah, right.

The reality is that the Blues got greedy. That same Wyshynski piece hits the highlights; St. Louis paid Sobotka just $1.3 million per year over the last three seasons, making him one of the very best bargains in the NHL. Despite that, the best offer cited in the piece was a two-year deal with a $3.0 million cap hit.

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So when Avangard Omsk came calling with a three-year deal that included out-clauses after every season and a $4.0 million salary (did we mention the tax situation in Russia is better than in St. Louis) this was a no-brainer:

Sobotka did nothing wrong. The Blues played hardball and took him to arbitration, so rather than submit to the team’s demands he looked at other options. He wasn’t under contract, so he was perfectly within his rights to consider playing in another league, and he certainly didn’t threaten the “fabric of the CBA.”

The Oilers

Craig MacTavish9

One imagines the Oilers would have been pretty open to Sobotka, who despite being on the small side has a well-deserved reputation as fierce competitor. The Blues certainly would have been better off trading Sobotka’s rights, once it became clear that the 27-year-old was going to investigate other options. Either the Blues didn’t know he was or they decided to ignore the possibility; either way, it was a blunder that cost them the loss of an excellent player for nothing.

That bad news isn’t just that Edmonton doesn’t have a shot at Sobotka now, but also that this makes it more difficult for the Blues to deal a centre. Sure, they signed Steve Ott, who turns 32 next month; he’s another combative, undersized pivot but he’s at the wrong end of his career curve and was awfully ineffective both in Buffalo and St. Louis last season. He’s much more of a gamble than Sobotka, and with the heightened risk comes the increased probability that the Blues would be reluctant to deal one of their other centremen.

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There aren’t a lot of teams out there who might be willing to deal a centre; this doesn’t help.


  • ubermiguel

    Damn it! We’re used to our own management hurting the team by pissing off our own players but now other teams are hurting us by pissing off their own players.

    • MacTastic

      Indeed, and I still prefer this scenario.

      As I recall, it wasn’t long ago when it was Oilers management regularly shooting the team in the foot. Glad to know we’re not the cash-strapped, short-sighted managers any more. Or at the very least, that there are other teams making similar goof-ups.

      Beware Eakins. You destroy Yakupov, and you shall not be forgiven.

      • Wax Man Riley

        I can’t stand the “Eakins destroying Yakupov” talk. He is a teenager playing a man’s game and he look like a teenager playing a man’s game. He is on record saying “skating all the time and back checking and hitting people isn’t my game,”

        Ummmm…. What?

        This is the NHL. If he doesn’t want to play real hockey and wants to bolt to the KHL because he has to work too hard, then he is simply a spoiled brat.

        Eakins is giving him the tools he needs to be a great player. If Yak doesn’t want them or doesn’t want to listen, then so be it. Brat.

        • kab

          That’s my take on him too. This whole “I like to score goals is the hockey I like to play” bit came off as a spoiled kid that was never told NO by his Mom. Then the veiled threat from the agent that KHL teams are interested. Maybe in junior team was spelled with an I in it somewhere but not in the big show. Good player – yes, great player – we’ll see. He can’t skate around everyone on the ice like juniors cause the players are just better. Gonna have to learn a team game soon

  • Randaman

    I hate to think of this happening to us but if Eakins doesn’t swallow some pride and work with Yak better and use him better we could be facing this exact situation next year. Just sayin and if you don’t think it could happen you had better pull your head out of the sand.

    • kab

      I don’t believe it’s about Eakins swallowing some pride, I think it more along the lines of Yak learning to play a TEAM game, with TEAM-mates and not trying to want to do it all on his own (look at me I am FANTASTIC) – which he can’t. If this young man refuses to play within the system then a quick goodbye wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

      • Randaman

        This is why I am in the trade him camp. Murray should have been the pick anyway. Thanks Daryl. Yak along with Petry should bring a quality #2C. Maybe O’Reily? You can’t expect to get quality for crap. Wake up people

  • vetinari

    I wasn’t sold that MacT was going to go to the Blues for help anyways. Too bad for the Blues, they may end up being one of those teams that came close but never quite got there. I don’t like their goaltending, dealing Halak was a blunder if you ask me. Defense is solid, but I bet Oilers are a Cup threat before the Blues win get to the conference final again.

    • Young Oil

      How was Halak a blunder, the guy had one great run 4 years ago yaaaaaay. He had three chances to be a starter come playoff time but always “got hurt” not to mention he had worse numbers than Elliot in all three seasons.