Blues re-sign Ott, may lose Sobotka

Steve Ott (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — The Blues announced on Thursday morning that they had re-signed veteran forward Steve Ott to a two-year contract amid media reports that center Vladimir Sobotka was leaving for a deal with Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

“Steve obviously came to us last year near the trade deadline and provides our team with experience, grit and determination that we feel is necessary to compete in a very difficult Western Conference,“ Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said.

Armstrong’s conference call quickly became more about Sobotka, who has spent the past four seasons with the Blues, than about Ott.

Roman Jedlicka of TV NOVA Sport of the Czech Republic reported on Twitter that Sobotka had signed a three-year deal with Avangard Omsk of the KHL for $4 million per year but that Sobotka can return to the NHL after any season.

Armstrong said he could not confirm that Sobotka had indeed signed with the KHL but did say he believed that to be true.

“All indications are that he has,” Armstrong said. “We're going to proceed with the arbitration and if he shows up at training camp, good for us. I'll have to get my dancing shoes on and get back under the cap at that point, but we'll do that to keep a valuable player like Vladdy in the organization.”

The Blues had recently filed for salary arbitration with Sobotka and Armstrong had been in talks with his representation over the last few months.

"In June, we offered him a multi-year deal: three, four, five [years] of his choice at north of $3 million. Our last offers were a one-year deal at $2.7 or a two-year deal at $3 million and those haven't got it done to this point,” he said. “Based on, and again, I can't confirm that he's signed in the KHL. I don't have any written documentation that that's happened, but that's where we were at with Vladimir. If he's gone to the KHL, it doesn't change my outlook on Vladdy as a player or a person. I have the utmost respect for him as a competitor, the utmost respect for him as part of the organization. I thought our offers always indicated that we value him, that we were placing a premium value on the things that aren't always seen on a stat sheet with the offer of $3 million. But in fairness, if the numbers that are potentially reported in the KHL, it's an economic decision that I can't really argue with him taking.”

Sobotka recorded 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists), a plus-minus rating of plus-14, 72 penalty minutes and 61.9 faceoff win percentage in 61 regular season games for the Blues this past season, all career highs. He added three assists in six playoff games in the first round against Chicago.

The possibility of losing Sobotka made re-signing Ott a priority for St. Louis.

The Blues acquired Ott and goalie Ryan Miller in the trade deadline deal that sent Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, prospect William Carrier and a draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres.

Ott, 31, recorded three points (three assists), a plus-minus rating of minus-12, 37 penalty minutes and won 59.7 percent of his faceoff attempts in 23 regular season games with the Blues. In six playoff games against the Blackhawks, Ott had two assists, 14 penalty minutes and won 59 percent of his faceoffs.

In 82 games during the 2013-14 regular season, including 59 with the Sabres, Ott had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists), a minus-38 rating, 92 penalty minutes and won 53.9 percent of his faceoff attempts.

His new deal with the Blues is reported to be worth $5.2 million, or an average annual value of $2.6 per season.

On Thursday, Armstrong described Ott a really strong utility player.

“I think we all saw what type of competitor he was in the playoffs,” the GM said. “He was in a lot of scoring chances. He, like our team, had difficulty finding the back of the net. You look at the acquisitions we made, a (Paul) Stastny, a (Joakim) Lindstrom and a (Jori) Lehtera, I really think it’s important to have that type of grit and determination in our lineup and that’s why I have the admiration for Sobotka but also for Steve Ott. You look at Ott and (Ryan) Reaves, they really provide us a strong component of nastiness and then obviously you can put that in with (David) Backes and the strong competition nature of (T.J.) Oshie and (Alexander) Steen and (Vladimir) Tarasenko and (Jaden) Schwartz. I like the makeup of our team and I like it having a little bit of sandpaper in there. Talking to the coach (Ken Hitchcock), he likes that element also.”

Armstrong said he had talked to Ott about returning to St. Louis at the end of the season and the two agreed to stay in touch. When the veteran forward didn’t sign a deal at the start of free agency this month he remained an option for the Blues.

“I know the last few days he’d been talking to more teams again and sort of my experience is the first 48 hours (of free agency) is a frenzy and then you go into a lull and then the dust has settled and everybody gets back to work. I think Steve was at that top end of the players that were still available and teams were circling back with him and we were one of them.”

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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