Reports: Sobotka leaving Blues for KHL team

Blues GM Doug Armstrong holds no ill will for Vladimir Sobotka, after the winger signed with the KHL, saying it’s a business decision that he respects.

Vladimir Sobotka is the latest NHLer to leave for the KHL.

The talented restricted free agent centre will not return to the St. Louis Blues next season after signing with Omsk Avangard.

According to isport.cz, Sobotka signed a three-year deal worth $4 million per season but has the right to return to the NHL after any season.

Sobotka and his agent Steve Bartlett had been in contract negotiations with the Blues before the team elected to take Sobotka to salary arbitration last week; the Blues made him a $1.4-million qualifying offer in late June.

On a conference call Thursday, Blues GM Doug Armstrong told reporters that he couldn’t confirm that Sobotka is in fact leaving for the KHL, despite the reports, and that the Blues plan on moving forward with Sobotka’s arbitration hearing July 21.

The 27-year-old was expected to enter the 2014-15 season as the Blues’ third-line centre behind captain David Backes, newly signed Paul Stastny and ahead of fourth-line pest Maxim Lapierre.

On Thursday, the team announced they’ve re-signed veteran centre Steve Ott to fill the void down the middle.

Sobotka, a native of Trebic, Czech Republic, has been injury-prone during his seven-year NHL career but was a productive two-way player when healthy. Last season he registered 33 points, 72 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating in 61 games. He also was a valuable penalty killer and had the best face-off winning percentage in the NHL at 61.9 per cent.

Drafted 106th overall in 2005 by the Bruins, Sobotka spent his first three NHL seasons with the Bruins before being traded to the Blues in June 2010. In 381 career NHL regular-season games, he has 35 goals, 123 assists and 282 penalty minutes.

Notable players on the current Omsk roster include Montreal Canadiens 2001 first-round pick Alexander Perezhogin, 2014 Russian Olympian Alexander Popov, and defenceman Erik Gustafsson, who left the Philadelphia Flyers as an RFA in May.