I am going to take this opportunity on Valentine’s Day to talk about a broken relationship. I’m speaking of course about the relationship between the Colorado Avalanche and holdout center, Ryan O’Reilly. What a difference a year makes. Last year, O’Reilly was one of the team’s most popular players, its leading scorer, and a young, rising star thought to be a building block for the Avs for many years to come.
Instead, Avs fans were victimized first by the NHL lockout, which cost the league and its fans months of hockey and then immediately following the resolution of the lockout, Avs fans were treated to a contract dispute between their team and popular center O’Reilly.
Unlike the lockout however, it’s seeming less and less likely that this contract dispute will have a happy ending and things will be able to go back to the way things were. The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater noted that at this point, it’s looking like a trade is the only possible solution to the O’Reilly saga. Ryan O’Reilly’s days as an Av look to be over
I’m not going to go into the numbers that the Avs have offered or what O’Reilly’s camp reportedly wants. That’s been done ad nauseum for months now. All I’ll say on that is that both sides are at fault and disgustingly obstinate here (they apparently learned nothing from the sins of Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr).
So, an O’Reilly trade is seemingly inevitable, although it may not happen for a while. The Avs could in theory hold O’Reilly hostage for years. They don’t have to risk losing him for nothing for four more years, unless another team pulls the rare and frowned upon offer sheet card.
While the Avs certainly have plenty of blame on their hands for everything that has transpired with the former second-round “steal” of the 2009 draft, they hold all the cards and must be smart going forward. The Avs have quickly jettisoned plenty of disgruntled players in the past and came up on the losing end of those deals. Goaltender Craig Anderson is the most glaring example. The Avs traded him for goalie Brian Elliott and then let Elliott walk after just 12 underwhelming games played for Colorado. Both Anderson and Elliott have enjoyed success with their new clubs. Other players like Kyle Quincey, Chris Stewart, and T.J. Galiardi also come to mind, but the return for those guys was at least respectable.
Regardless, the Avs cannot afford to lost this trade and would be wise to sit on O’Reilly until the return benefits them greatly. These are certainly not rumors, but here are some players the Avs should certainly target:
The second overall pick in the 2005 draft, Ryan was overshadowed for quite some time since Sidney Crosby was the first overall pick that year. Ryan has had his ups and downs as an Anaheim Duck and his name has been mentioned in the trade rumors, especially last year when the Ducks struggled throughout the season. Word was that the Ducks were looking to move Ryan for a center and O’Reilly certainly fits the bill. The Avs, who have struggled this year on offense would greatly benefit from Ryan’s scoring potential. He has scored at least 30 goals over the past four seasons. O’Reilly for Ryan would certainly be a long-shot. The Avs would probably have to throw in a prospect such as defenseman Stefan Elliott or Tyson Barrie, which would be a risk in itself, after seeing the similarly-skilled Kevin Shattenkirk blow up with St. Louis once he was dealt. With the Ducks doing well this season though, it seems highly unlikely that they would move a top player like Ryan.
The Phoenix Coyotes as an organization have been a question mark for years now. There were rumors of the Coyotes’ relocation back to the franchise’s original city of Winnipeg until the Atlanta Thrashers beat them to the punch. With Phoenix’s attendance still an issue and its ownership in flux, it’s not out of the question that one of its star players could me moved. Keith Yandle would be a fantastic addition to the struggling Avs blueline. The Avs are currently the only team in the NHL without a goal from its defensemen and now their best defenseman, Erik Johnson, joins captain Gabe Landeskog as “out indefinitely” due to a head injury. In the long-term however, Yandle and Johnson would provide a terrific one-two punch on the back end. The Avs would likely need to package O’Reilly, prospects, and picks to land Yandle.
Tyler Myers won the Calder Trophy in 2010 as the NHL’s best rookie, beating out Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. Myers enjoyed a 48-point rookie season and finished the year plus-13. Very respectable numbers for a defenseman, let alone a rookie. Since then however, Myers has seen his production decline (37 and 23 points respectively over the next two seasons) and even saw himself as a healthy scratch early this season. A straight-up O’Reilly for Myers trade would not be out of the question, with O’Reilly coming off his best year as a pro and Myers struggling and perhaps a new team and fresh start is what the big 6’8″ defenseman needs to revitalize his career. Much like Yandle, Myers’ potential would look very good next to Erik Johnson as a top Avs blueliner.
Seth Jones is widely considered to be the first overall pick in the upcoming 2013 NHL Draft. Of course, a trade for Seth Jones is a huge question mark at this point, because no one will know for a few more months who will have the first overall pick. The Avs are currently without several key players and could very well continue the downward spiral and win the draft lottery the old fashioned way. If they don’t however, they would be wise to consider trading Ryan O’Reilly for Seth Jones (or the first overall pick) straight-up. Jones, like top picks Gabe Landeskog and Matt Duchene, grew up an Avs fan, so putting on the Burgundy and Blue “A” on draft day would be a dream come true for the top defensive prospect.
There are of course, countless rumors and countless possibilities as to where Ryan O’Reilly could end up. The bottom line however, for the Colorado Avalanche, is that they must come out of this trade victorious, or the ugly situation that has become Ryan O’Reilly’s career in Colorado, could set the franchise back years. O’Reilly will all but certainly be moved. The Avs can and should consider packaging him up with anyone else on the roster to get the greatest return. For a franchise that is in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in the last seven years, they must be willing to make a drastic change to improve the culture of the team. Aside from Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, and Semyon Varlamov, everyone else should be considered expendable.