Finally, the Ryan O’Reilly saga will come to an end after months upon months of nonsense. Today, TSN reported that the Calgary Flames have signed Ryan O’Reilly an offer sheet at two years for a total of $10 million. This is quite the unexpected turn which makes what seemed like a one-way ticket out of town for O’Reilly a bit less certain.
What are the options for the Avalanche?
Match the Offer:
By the rules of restricted free agency, the Avalanche have one week to match the offer. If they do, then they will agree to the terms that the Calgary Flames set forth in the contract, which would give O’Reilly a cap hit of $5 million a year, precisely what the Avalanche were trying to not pay him.
This also means that if the Avalanche do match the offer, they cannot trade O’Reilly for a year. So, even if they did plan on trading him, it wouldn’t be until just before the end of this contract.
Let Him Go:
If the Avalanche decide to let O’Reilly go to the Flames, then they would be given draft picks as compensation. Under the current CBA, the Avalanche would receive Calgary’s first and third round draft picks for this coming draft. It is also possible for the Avalanche to receive players as compensation, but the process on this is not nearly as clear as the draft picks are.
So what do the Avalanche do? More importantly, what are the repercussions for each option?
If O’Reilly Comes Back:
I wouldn’t count on O’Reilly being a part of the Avalanche for too long after the Avalanche are allowed to trade him again. Not because there isn’t any actual value to him, even if he does play well for the team upon returning. If the Avalanche match this offer, O’Reilly won his little game of “chicken” with Pierre Lacroix, and Lacroix holds grudges. We need only see that based on the way he has shipped other players out of town for even perceived contract issues.
Not to mention the awkwardness after O’Reilly’s father called out Avs management in multiple settings. The Avalanche don’t like when players speak out about contract things, I can’t imagine they like the fact that his father took shots at the organization as well.
Then there is the locker room to consider, especially after some very icy comments made about O’Reilly from Matt Duchene. There could be a strained relationships between teammates.
Still, the Avalanche are having some depth problems with their injury issues, and it’s impossible to ignore that O’Reilly’s presence on the team during this time of injury would certainly help out. In that sense alone it almost makes enough sense to match the offer.
Take The Picks and Run
The last thing that the Avalanche need right now is more young players, but the way Calgary’s season is going, the Avalanche could end up with a pretty darn good draft pick. Plus, if the Avalanche are so against paying him the $5 million per year it would cost for the salary cap, then there’s no chance he’ll be back.
The deeper portion of this, however, is the fact that Calgary is a divisional team. At the same time, they are only a divisional team for the rest of this season. With realignment likely to occur next season, the Flames look to be moving into the Pacific Division, where the Avalanche are going to the new Midwest Division. So, knowing that you won’t be seeing him six times a season might make things a bit more manageable.
You also have to wonder how effective he’d be. There’s still no word on his improvement from his leg injury he suffered just before he parted ways with the KHL team on which he was playing, and he hasn’t even been on his skates since then.
Still, fans would freak out even more than they already have during this whole situation if the Avalanche let him get away for a first and a third round pick. The fans aren’t stupid, they know that the Avalanche need help right now. Yes, the team is 14th in the Western standings, but as I’m writing this, the separation between the fourth and 14th seed in the West is a whopping six points. This season is far from over from the Avalanche.
So What Happens
This is one of those occurrences where your guess is as good as mine, because it is quite a coin flip at the moment. Right now, I just think that too much damage has been done in the relations department. O’Reilly will go to the Flames, Calgary will still miss the playoffs and the Avalanche will get another pretty sweet first round this coming season.
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