Vladimir Sobotka came over to the Buffalo Sabres in their biggest trade of the off-season when he came to the Sabres along with Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund, and 2 draft picks in exchange for Ryan O’Reilly.
The Boston Bruins drafted the Czech left-wing in the fourth round of the 2005 NHL draft. After shuffling back and forth between Providence in the AHL and one full season with the Bruins, Sobotka was traded to the St. Louis Blues for the rights to Boston University forward David Warsosfky. During his time in Boston, Sobotka never developed into a top 6 forward thus he became expendable for the Bruins.
Sobotka had a solid first 4 season in St. Louis however he was never a major offensive threat as he never broke the 10 goal or 40 point threshold. With the exception of the 2011-12 season, he did however post above average defensive metrics while spending most of his time at center and being one of the Blues top face off guys.
After the 2014 season, Sobotka left the Blues fora 3 year run with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. The Blues retained the rights to Sobotka when he returned fro the KHL due to an arbitration deal. Sobotka returned for the 2016-17 post-season and signed a 3 year contract extension after the season.
Last year was arguably the most productive season of Vladimir Sobotka’s career. Sobotka had career highs in games played, goals, and time on ice. That being said, he took a step back defensively which is his biggest strength. His possession numbers were down and the Blues moved him to the wing which obviously resulted in a drop in his faceoff numbers. Overall, last year was not a great year for Sobotka.
So where does Vladimir Sobotka fit in with the Buffalo Sabres? Sobotka has never been expected to a be a consistent offensive threat so the Sabres will most likely be looking for veteran leadership and his defensive game (if his defense can return to form).
Sobotka is expecting more than just playing in the Sabres’ bottom 6 though. In an interview this summer, Sobotka expressed his expectations for the upcoming season:
"“I don’t think I am a bottom six guy, I won’t play in the fourth line.”– Vladimir Sobotka"
Heading into training camp though, Vladimir Sobotka is not a lock for even the third line, let alone the top 2 lines. At center, the Sabres have Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt, and potentially former St. Louis Blues teammate Patrik Berglund ahead of him on the depth chart. At left wing, where he spent last season, there are new acquisitions Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary as well as 25 year old Evan Rodrigues who will can potentially play left-wing and center.
At 31 years old, Vladimir Sobotka is entering his 11th NHL season with another 3 KHL season under his belt. Most forwards are in the beginning stages of their regression at this point in their career therefore it may be difficult for Sobotka to earn top forward minutes in Buffalo. His salary does not keep him from being completely unmovable though. He is making $3.5 million a year with 2 years left on his contract and could potentially be a late season trade target.
How do you think Vladimir Sobotka will fit in with the Buffalo Sabres this season? Let us know in the comment section below.