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.

Sobotka

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.

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.

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.

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

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • 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

  • ubermiguel

    Head scratcher for sure. Left me puzzled this morning when I heard the news. Knew for certain that any trade talk about Berglund just flew out on a plane to Omsk.

    The Blues just got weaker with the loss and will be looking to move someone up to wing because Berglund will now be at center for sure next season.

    Is Sobtoka worth 4 m to the Oilers? I’d say no.

    I think MacT looks inward rather than outward for his center. Arco has been given a golden opportunity. Hope he knows that.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      I think either Sobodka (or Berglund) at ~ 4M per year for the next 2 years would be a great fit for the Oil. With ~9M of space & only Schultz left to sign. Either, they pick up some salary somewhere (hopefully as a center) or they go with the current group and may have several million unspent. How would that improve the team?

      Even if its an overpay for someone to give some better depth at center for a couple of year, when hopefully LD can compete and RNH looks more like a true C1, I don’t see much downside.

      Unless of course you are the Kmans accountant

  • 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

  • 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

  • SRELIOFAN

    The most realistic team to trade with was the Isles. I’d take one of Neilson, Nelson, Bailey, or Lee in that order. Granted for different price tags.

    Isles got 8 possible centers this year, they got to be looking to get of one. Never thought St. Louis would get rid of Berglund anyways.

    Its

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      they’d probably try to peddle Josh Bailey, who’s had a few OK years, but hasn’t scored more than 38 points in a season….kind of a sideways move when you consider that Gagner has had several slightly more productive seasons, unless the Oilers figure that Bailey at 24 still has yet to reach his full potential and might flourish as a 2nd line center here?

  • vetinari

    I wonder if the long view isn’t the way to play this– offer the Blues something relatively minor (mid round pick and/or mid level prospect), try to get Sobotka’s rights and look at bringing him aboard next year in a 2C/3C role, depending on Draisaitl’s development? If you can’t lure him back or if Draisaitl develops as expected, then see if you can flip his rights again?

    • vetinari

      Sobotka is a UFA next summer (in NHL terms). The Oilers don’t have to trade St. Louis anything to have a shot at him next summer, but several NHL teams will be bidding.

        • Dwayne Roloson 35

          The NHL CBA has unrestricted free agency at 27. Sobotka will be 27 next July 1. In fact, he is 27 today, missing UFA status by just 2 days this summer.

          • Dwayne Roloson 35

            He was tendered a qualifying offer first meaning they will still have his rights, the blues are also taking him to arbitration which means that he has to play for them when he returns for that year so no he is not a UFA when he returns

          • v4ance

            St. Louis sent a qualifying offer to Sobotka before July 1st before taking him to arbitration.

            With that qualifying offer, St. Louis will retain Sobotka’s rights for at least one more NHL season, IF he decides to come back.

            This was all in Wyshynski’s article that Willis referred to in this blog post.

          • Dwayne Roloson 35

            Okay. St. Louis filed for arbitration, and if Sobotka skips on arbitration (which means that he is under contract) that means they can toll the contract.

            Me bad.

  • 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.