The NHL's top face-off man, Vladimir Sobotka (17) will play in the KHL next season, but he could be back with the Blues in 2015–16.
Billy Hurst/CSM (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
By Allan Muir
July 21, 2014

The NHL's slate of salary arbitration hearings got underway early on Monday morning, and things have already gotten very interesting.

Just hours into the process, the Blues announced that RFA forward Vladimir Sobotka had been awarded a one-year contract by the arbitrator. Sources says the deal is worth $2.725 million, but it won't go into effect right away.

The 27-year-old Sobotka signed a three-year deal with Avangard Omsk of the KHL last month, and while the arrangement has out clauses after the first and second years, he is committed to play with the team next season. That means that the arbitration award will carry over when Sobotka decides to return to the NHL ... if he decides to return.

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Sobotka was looking to more than double his $1.4 million salary after having a solid 2013–14 in which he had a career-high 33 points while leading the NHL with a 61.9% success rate on face-offs. St. Louis wasn't inclined to pay him quite that much, making a final offer of $2.7 million. The arbitrator's ruling suggests that the team made a good case.

But this may be a win for both sides. Sobotka's being paid well to play in the KHL—initially, his deal was reported to be around $4 million a year, but the actual figure is closer to $2.8 million—but non-Russians (Sobotka is Czech) with NHL options rarely stick around in the K. Given the amount of his award, and the chance to build on it as an unrestricted free agent when it expires, it seems likely that he will be back with the Blues for the 2015–16 season.

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