All of the Colorado Avalanche are back in Denver and have been participating in a few “Captain’s Practices” for the last week. Every single Avalanche player with one glaring exception, Ryan O’Reilly. Ryan O’Reilly had a breakout year with the Avalanche a season ago, leading the team in scoring and making a name for himself as one of the best leaders on the team; so when free agency came along at the end of the season, re-signing O’Reilly was top priority for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche weren’t able to get that done by the time the lockout came around, so now that the lockout has ended, Avalanche GM, Greg Sherman, should be on the phone with O’Reilly’s agent non-stop, because there is no guarantee that O’Reilly will be back right away at this moment.
Why Might O’Reilly Not Come Right Back?
Back in December, O’Reilly signed a two-year contract to play out in the KHL. The uncertainty of the lockout made O’Reilly think long-term, and at the time nobody could really blame him. The positive side of this contract was that, since O’Reilly is a restricted free agent, he had a special opt-out clause written into his contract that allows him to go back and play in the NHL should a “more lucrative” contract come his way.
So easy, right? A team like the Avalanche, who has a lot of cap space to play with, should easily be able to offer O’Reilly a contract with more lucrative terms, right? Well, posssibly.
So What’s the Hold-Up?
It isn’t what you might think. O’Reilly had a big year last season, so naturally he was going to want to get a decent raise from the money he was making in his rookie contract. The Avalanche definitely understood that but, at the same time, needed to be smart about the deal. Of the three seasons that O’Reilly has played in the NHL, this was the only one in which his point total was higher than 26. Yes, his role changed, but you don’t want to sell the farm until you’re completely certain about what you’re going to get from him. So the raise can’t be too crazy.
Strangely enough, according to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, money doesn’t seem to be the issue here. In the article linked, Chambers states:
I also talked to captain Gabe Landeskog and Matt Duchene about “Factor”, a RFA who, according to one source, wants a five-year deal at the same or similar salary the Avs are offering on three years.
Chambers is quick to remind us that this is speculation, but it sounds right. The Avalanche have gotten a bit gun-shy when it comes to long-term contracts ever since they gave Paul Stastny a six-year contract at about $6.6 million a year. They know that O’Reilly is an important player to their roster, but they want to be absolutely certain about the kind of role he’s going to have before giving him that longer deal. Still, will three years be enough to get O’Reilly back to Denver?
How Do We Get O’Reilly Back to Denver?
If we’ve learned one thing from the past few months or ridiculous negotiations that only just now resulted in bringing hockey back to us, it’s that people need to compromise. If we are to believe that O’Reilly and the Avalanche are on the same page about dollars and cents and simply differ on years, just meet in the middle.
O’Reilly wants five years and the Avalanche want three years. It seems like it’s pretty simple, meet in the middle at four years and add the money to keep the cap hit the same way you want it and get this guy back to Denver. It works for both teams in that O’Relly gets a slightly longer deal, but he would still be a restricted free-agent at the end of the deal.
Hopefully things don’t take too much longer for the Avalanche in their negotiations with O’Reilly. He’s an important part of this team and a cornerstone of the franchise that must remain in place to help his team continue to move forward. If nothing else, it’s good to know that they are at least talking.
Very interesting developments in the Ryan O’Reilly saga. Avalanche beat writer, Adrian Dater, reported today that money seems to be playing a much larger factor in O’Reilly’s decision than was previously thought. According to Dater, O’Reilly actually turned down a five year contract worth $17 million earlier in the summer. Apparently O’Reilly’s camp, as Dater reports in the article, believes that O’Reilly should receive a contract closer to the likes of David Krejci or Evander Kane; both of whom have salary cap hits of $5.25 million a season.
I do not see the Avalanche giving O’Reilly a contract this large mostly because O’Reilly’s season last year, while it was a great season and a breakout performance, was the first time that he had broke 26 points in his career. Krejci has had over 50 points each of the last three years, and Kane has gradually turned into a 30 goal scorer. O’Reilly earned a raise, no doubt about that, but he’s reaching with this. My hope is that the team will agree on something similar to the contracts that David Jones and P.A. Parenteau signed. The four year, $16 million salary and get O’Reilly back on the ice.
I’m a Denver native who has been a fan of the Avalanche since they came to town and a fan of the game before that. I started writing my own blog a couple years ago before moving to Bleacher Report and becoming a Featured Columnist there. You can also find me the Burgundy Brigade Podcast