Sobotka returns to Blues, adds three-year, $10.5M extension

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Update: The St. Louis Blues made it official; Vlaidmir Sobotka will “fulfill his obligation” for the remainder of 2016-17. He’ll also stick around for a while, as the team also confirmed that he signed a three-year, $10.5 million extension that will begin in 2017-18.

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The on-again, off-again relationship between Vladimir Sobotka at the St. Louis Blues appears to be back on.

Per the Post-Dispatch, Sobotka’s contract with KHL Avangard has been terminated and according to Victor Shalev — the club’s GM — Sobotka is on his way back to the NHL.

Given he owes the Blues one year on his current contract — a $2.725M deal awarded in arbitration back in 2014 — Sobotka could be playing for St. Louis in the very near future. He’s playoff eligible, and could (theoretically) suit up for one of the Blues’ three remaining regular-season games:

Tonight in Florida, Saturday in Carolina or Sunday at home against the Avalanche.

There are two key dynamics at play here. The first? What the 29-year-old would bring to the table for the playoffs. Though he hasn’t faced NHL competition in three years, he has been a steady, consistent scorer in the KHL — 51 points in 53 games in his first season, then 34 in 44 and 30 in 41 in his second and third.

Prior to bolting St. Louis, Sobotka developed a reputation as a solid defensive forward and penalty killer, one that can win faceoffs. So on that alone, he’s a nice option to have come postseason time. It’s also the equivalent of getting a trade deadline acquisition for nothing.

The second dynamic at play? Sobotka might be around for longer than just this season.

From the Dispatch:

That figure [$2.275 million] would be pro-rated for the little that remains left in the regular season. He is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The Blues had seemed reluctant in recent years to allow Sobotka to play a partial season and then become UFA. But if the club and the forward can agree on a multi-year contract extension, which is likely, then it would make sense to add him to the roster at this time. That appears to be where the situation is headed, and finally, the Sobotka saga will be over.

If Sobotka does join the club, the Blues’ roster will be pretty solid come playoff time. Jori Lehtera recently returned from a concussion, Carl Gunnarsson has come back from a lower-body injury and Paul Statsny (lower body as well) has been upgraded to day-to-day.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.