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.


  • BlazingSaitls

    The last thing Oilers need is another player in the organization that see’s KHL as a real option. So Im glad that trade never got made. Eakins has a way a making those types yearn for Russian and their Gulag of a league. Good riddens, enjoy the Vodka Sobotka

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Oilers would then have 3 centers whose lunch money will be stolen from them on a regular basis. RNH and Draisaitl will both be pushed around this coming season. 5’10” Sobotka won’t help this situation either.

    We’ve all seen the quickness/explosiveness of Nail Yakupov. He has plenty and he certainly has struggled (orchestrated by Eakins ofcourse) How is Leon and his lack of mobility/quickness issues going to pass the I’m ready for the NHL test next season? This is a fundamental reason to send him back to PA. Even more of a reason than sending Nurse back.

    Unleash the 6’5″ 200+lbs Ginger…..Bogdan Yakimov. Bigger, stronger and faster, along with being a year older. He deserves a longer look than Leon. Maybe Bogdan can do everything Couturier could do for this team and more.

    • v4ance

      I am really hoping Yakimov becomes our guy on the third line C, or even Jujhar, but I really can’t see how brining in a KHL player to be our second line C is going to be an upgrade from promoting a top draft WHL player.

      I think Arco, just like he did this year, is going to surprise everyone. Or who knows, maybe Lander finally translates his game to the NHL?

      Not ideal I know but I am excited at how Draisaitl, Jujhar, and Yakimov develop.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Only have 3 mill in cap room with Schwartz left to sign. They could steal deal a centre as they have about 5 -6 players that can play the position. They may want some cap flexibility for trade deadline too.

    2nd rounder + 3rd rounder + prospect for Berglund

    Or look to Ryan O’Reilly which could cost Eberle or Perron or Yakupov