Young Stud Center Holds Out For Huge Contract
Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly’s well-documented contract impasse with his team’s management hit fever pitch last week when it was announced in the Denver Post that team management plans on trading their disgruntled forward. Certainly, the Avs’ shrewd second-round selection in the 2009 NHL draft is a very good player and, at just 22 years old, O’Reilly is far from reaching his potential. A two-way pivot with good size at 6’0″ and 200 pounds with terrific hockey sense and above-average skating ability, O’Reilly is an ideal second-line center with the upside of a slightly less physical Ryan Kesler.
The Denver Post reports that Colorado management offered O’Reilly what seems to be a competitive deal: five years at $17 million dollars. This would put him in a competitive salary bracket with the two players largely considered to be the lynch-pins of the Avs’ future, center Matt Duchene and left wing Gabriel Landeskog, both earning $3.5 million per year. The fact that O’Reilly wants more money, and that he wants it just one (lockout-abbreviated) season before he would eligible for salary arbitration comes off as a contentious stance with management, who has consequently reported that they are committed to dealing him.
Media Grabs O’Reilly Story During Slow Trade Season
In the slow trade period of the early NHL campaign, the media trade-rumor mills quickly grabbed the O’Reilly story and thrust it onto the front pages. Craig Custance at ESPN reported the major suitors for O’Reilly to be Calgary, Phoenix and (of course) Toronto, three teams which do not exactly have Stanley Cup aspirations but all of whom are lacking of even a first-line center of the quality of O’Reilly. The O’Reilly saga was further written about here at The Hockey Writers, with Joey Suyeishi hypothesizing what the Avalanche could get in return for him and Kevin Goff simply stating that they need to get something in return for him, and the sooner the better.
Most recently, it was reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post and analyzed by Lyle Richardson of The Hockey News that the New York Rangers were kicking the proverbial tires on a potential deal for O’Reilly. Richardson cites a CBC report that the Avalanche asked for both Blueshirts’ defenseman Michael del Zotto and either a top prospect or draft pick in return.
Conclusion: Rangers Better Off Not Making The Deal And Why
After a brutal early season schedule which saw the Rangers stumble to 1-3 out of the gate, the Rangers have put it together enough to go 7-2-1 in the ensuing 10 games. Quite simply, they are a very good team and, as they stand, a legitimate Stanley Cup challenger in the Eastern Conference. The Blueshirts have an all-star first-line center in Brad Richards and a very solid two-way option comparable in ability to O’Reilly slotting behind him in 22 year-old Derek Stepan. With a great deal less time on the power play last season, the underrated Stepan potted 51 points, just four fewer than O’Reilly’s team-leading 55 for Colorado.
If the Rangers have any weakness at all, it is their depth on the blueline. Beyond a fantastic top-four of del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Mark Staal and Ryan McDonagh, Coach John Tortorella is often loathe to trust Anton Stralman and Matt Gilroy in many key situations. If the Rangers indeed make a trade before the NHL deadline, it will likely result in the acquisition of a defenseman rather than the jettisoning of one.
It is also crucial to note that, with the NHL salary cap shrinking prior to next season, the Rangers need to re-sign restricted free agents McDonagh, Stepan and Carl Hagelin, all key components of their on-ice success. If the Rangers doled out to O’Reilly more than Colorado has offered him, it would be nearly impossible to conceive of them keeping those aforementioned players and staying under the cap ceiling. Quite simply, O’Reilly is a very good young player, but he will be costly both in terms of what it would take to trade for him and how much the Rangers would need to pay him, and he is not notably better than what the Blueshirts already have.
Quick Hits (More Trade Buzz)
– With the Calgary Flames looking just about good enough to just barely miss the playoffs yet again this season, expect the Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff rumors to start heating up again. The irrepressible Eklund at www.hockeybuzz.com has already reported that the Buffalo Sabres are putting out feelers on not just Iginla but Evander Kane. Meanwhile, philly.com has reported that the Flyers are seeking Iginla and could possibly get him for… Scott Laughton. Uh, dream on, philly.com.
– With their early-season struggles and a battered blueline, one has to wonder how long the Los Angeles Kings are going to hang onto their extremely talented young back-up goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Their starter, Jonathan Quick, has proven his merit as one of the top netminders in the game with his brilliant performance during last season’s Stanley Cup run, and many teams would fall over themselves with the chance to land Bernier. Toronto, Washington, Columbus and Minnesota could all use an infusion of youth and talent between the pipes and all could offer defensemen which could help the Kings now.
– If anyone wants to talk fantasy hockey trades instead of ones in the purportedly real world, you need to read the best fantasy hockey writer on the planet, Ian Gooding of Kukla’s Korner. Also an extremely funny dude with a great Twitter feed, you can find his regular column here: kuklaskorner.com/fantasy
– Speaking of great writing, the Hockey Writers’ own Sebastian Egerton-Read recently wrote an excellent column debating whether the Minnesota Wild should use their compliance buyout on Dany Heatley’s exorbitant contract following the season. Personally, I find it more likely that the Wild will shop him at the deadline to a team well below the salary cap in search of striking some offensive gold. Don’t rule out the Carolina Hurricanes, seeking help for Jeff Skinner on the second line and starting to believe they can win the Southeast Division or, you’re reading this correctly, the New York Islanders. John Tavares has truly become elite on the first line and Matt Moulson does a great job on his left side, but Heatley would represent a huge upgrade over Brad Boyes on the right wing. Annually flirting with the cap floor, the Islanders would still be well below the average team in terms of salary even with this acquisition, which would also give them another name player to market with their upcoming move to Brooklyn.