Vladimir Sobotka is continuing to try to get out of his KHL contract in the hopes of rejoining St. Louis at some point this season, reports Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. However, a major hurdle to clear at this time appears to be the disappearance of the out clause from his KHL deal.
GM Doug Armstrong noted that Sobotka signed a renegotiated contract at the time of the collapse of the Russian ruble to guarantee him more money. The new deal did not contain an NHL out clause, something that may not have been communicated to him when he signed it.
For the time being, Sobotka has reported to Avangard Omsk after representing the Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey and is skating with the team although he has yet to suit up in a game.
The potential still exists for the 29 year old center to buy his way out of the final year of his contract but doing so would basically mean that he would be playing for free this season. Sobotka is earning $4MM with Omsk but the team is requesting a two-thirds buyout, meaning that he would have to pay them $2.68MM to get out of the deal. His NHL salary with the Blues would be $2.725MM (based on an arbitration award from 2014), meaning that he’d effectively be playing for a salary of $45K if he were to return to St. Louis this year. To put that in perspective, the NHL minimum salary this season is $575K; the AHL minimum is also $45K.
The NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement does not permit the Blues to pay any portion of the buyout while they are also not allowed to renegotiate his current contract to pay him a higher salary to offset the buyout either. One option that could exist in a few months would be a contract extension as an enticement to leave Omsk midseason. However, as Sobotka is on a one year deal, the CBA blocks teams and players from signing extensions until January 1st.
In the meantime, the Blues are left with a hole to fill in their roster as they had kept a spot open for Sobotka, who had 33 points in just 61 games in his last NHL season. They have just shy of $4MM in cap space to work with according to Cap Friendly which gives them some wiggle room although they will need to conserve some of that if they do manage to bring him back later on in the year.