The Vladimir Sobotka angle has sharpened and taken a new turn. Just as a forewarning, there will be lots of movie references in this.
The St. Louis Blues are apparently in talks to return Vladimir Sobotka to a Blues jersey and sooner than any of us thought. While most of the fans were foolish enough to believe Doug Armstrong when he said he was done talking about Vlady Sobotka until he landed on American soil, we were wrong in assuming that meant next year.
With every new twist and turn in this saga, I am reminded of a scene from Lord of the Rings. The company gets out of a tight spot only to hear a terrifying sound. Just like with Sobotka, we are forced to sigh and ask what is this new devilry?
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Apparently, the latest word on the situation is that Sobotka will not only join the team for the rest of the season and playoffs but sign an extension. That last part is perhaps the most puzzling.
It is understandable that the Blues might want Sobotka back for this season and to fill a void in the playoffs. The Blues are being hit hard by some injuries, most notably to Paul Stastny, and Sobotka can take another spot.
However, that last sentence is all the reason not to sign him to an extension. The last paragraph of Jeremy Rutherford’s article is particularly disturbing, discussing a multi-year extension.
Just when you think you’re done with this entire situation, they pull you back in.
St. Louis has a nice crop of young talent coming through the pipeline right now. None of them might be top line players, but the Blues have the AHL’s leading scorer and goal scorer in their system. They also have a group of young, talented rookies that are showing they are ready for the pro game.
Adding Sobotka to that mix at this stage, just seems to block another spot from the youth. You do not want to rush these guys into spots they are not ready for, but you limit their ability to grab that brass ring if there is no ring to grab.
Sobotka is a decent player. He skates hard, gives a ton of effort in just about every game and chips in with the occasional goal or point.
He’s not a top-six forward though. He never was a top-six forward even in his best years. The team might have been forced to use him there, but he’s a third liner or even a fourth line player if the situation calls for it.
Sobotka is not the kind of guy that is going to give you 18-20 minutes a night on a consistent basis. He can if asked, but it’s not going to be the same type of production you get from him in short bursts.
It just does not make sense to block a younger player from a spot by giving Sobotka a long extension. Admittedly, we don’t know the length yet or if it will even happen.
The way this entire deal has gone, it might fizzle out and this is all bluster for nothing. Unless this potential new contract heavily favors the team, i.e. two or three years at an incredibly discounted rate, then the Blues have lost.
The Blues are at a point in their development where they need a free agent in the summer or a good trade. Despite the turnaround under Mike Yeo, this is not a team that can sit back and say they are better with Sobotka and that is enough.
There are still other extensions to give out, a couple free agents that would be cheap and fine to bring back and little money to spend on it all.
Using up more funds on Sobotka just does not make sense any more. The Blues need to have a solid offseason plan, no matter who the GM. They need a solid to-do list, not flailing around at any name possible.
Additionally, how much value does he really bring to the table? Sobotka is a great faceoff man, but if he’s playing on the third line, how many faceoffs does he see?
On top of that, despite his prowess in the circle, he’s really better suited to the wing during play. The Blues already have a ton of guys that you can say that about. So, listing him as a center does not automatically fill the void left by Stastny in the immediate timeframe.
There are those that see it differently. Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch believes this gives the Blues a lot more depth and flexibility.
It’s harder to see it from my perspective. Other than work ethic, I don’t see Sobotka doing any of the things the Blues need.
He’s not a powerplay scorer. He has speed, but he’s not a force up the middle. Sobotka is a decent player, but he is not a second line center if you can prevent it.
At this point in the year, with it seeming unlikely that Stastny could return before the second round, bringing Sobotka in is fine. It gives the Blues another player with playoff experience and the tenacity to get things done in the postseason.
Beyond that, the point has been reached where seeing him walk would not be that big a deal. It seems the Blues are unwilling to do that though.
Best case scenario, the team gets a friendly contract that can be exposed in the expansion draft. If he’s taken, great. If not, it does not break the bank.
Outside of that, I see more downside to an extension than up. Hopefully I’m wrong, but the Blues need a lot more in the future than a third-line center who hustles.