SUNRISE, Fla - Vladimir Sobotka will return to the Blues after three years in the Kontinental Hockey League and will be eligible to play as early as Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Sobotka owes the Blues one year after an arbitration decision that was made in 2014. That year will be used in this season's remaining games.
Sobotka has also signed a three-year contract extension worth $10.5 million, which will begin with the 2017-18 season.
"Vladi and I had some really good conversations on why I thought it would be time for him to come back here and how he would fit into our group," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said in an exclusive interview for stlouisblues.com. "It just sort of grabbed seed at that point and things moved ahead to where we are today, where he's playing out that arbitration award from a few years ago and agreed to a new three-year contract (for next year)."
"It feels great. I'm excited and I'm happy to be part of the Blues again," Sobotka said after his first practice on Friday. "I'm really excited to get that first game in."
Sobotka said leaving for the KHL was strictly a business decision.
"I never had anything against Blues fans, they were always great to me," he said. "I enjoyed all four years when I played with the Blues and it's all fine."
Sobotka, 29, has spent the past three seasons with Omsk Avangard of the KHL. In 2016-17, the 5-foot-10, 197-pound forward logged 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) and 30 penalty minutes in 41 regular season games and 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 12 postseason games. Overall, Sobotka totaled 102 points (37 goals, 65 assists) and 103 penalty minutes in 138 career KHL regular season games, as well as 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) and 16 penalty minutes in 18 career postseason games.
Video: Sobotka excited to return to Blues
Sobotka flew from Prague to Raleigh, NC on Thursday and completed his physical around 4:30 p.m. CT. He practiced with some teammates during an optional skate on Friday and is eligible to play on Saturday, but Armstrong said it's up to the coaches for when and where he gets into the lineup.
"When he signed in the KHL, it was as a top offensive player, one that played in offensive situations," Armstrong said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how his game has evolved. I had the opportunity to watch him play on his national team in which he played a top-six role on the Czech team. I'm looking forward to seeing him come back and how his game has evolved.
"If we get the same player back that left, that's a player that was getting almost half a point-a-game, playing with a little bit of snarl," Armstrong added. "I think the game has evolved to his style of play, a little bit of quickness, he can get in on the forecheck and play with an edge. One thing we're excited about is the faceoffs. We might start with the puck a little more than we have recently."
Prior to his stint in the KHL, Sobotka spent four seasons with the Blues, recording 101 points (29 goals, 72 assists) in 247 regular season games and eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 21 playoff games.
Overall, the Trebic, Czech Republic, native has appeared in seven NHL seasons, accumulating 123 points (35 goals, 88 assists) in 381 career regular season games and 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 40 career playoff games.
Video: Armstrong discusses Sobotka's return to Blues