Avalanche Thoughts – The O’Reilly Situation
My thoughts on the contract stalemate between the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly and why the Avs should trade him.
I love Ryan O’Reilly.
I love how hard he works, how he’s constantly improving, how he plays two-way hockey, how he’s never satisfied, how he makes his teammates better, etc…. O’Reilly is cut from that Chris Drury cloth. He can lead by example or by words. He can be counted on in big moment situations. He’s the type of guy you want on your team and he’s the type of guy you hate to see your team play against. He’s a pest. But not a pest like Sean Avery, who just nudges you the wrong way or yaps too much and eventually gets under your skin. He’s a pest because he’s always around the puck. You think it’s on your stick or you have a clear passing lane, but then you see #37 going the other way with the little black biscuit. Every team wants a player, hell, multiple players, like O’Reilly.
They can have him. For the right price.
Right now the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly are in a contract stalemate. O’Reilly, reportedly, wants something around five million dollars while the Avs are offering him 3.5 million. I think both sides should settle at four million, but what do I care? It’s not my money. I think the Avs are being fair to him, given that Matt Duchene just signed a two year deal at 3.5 million. O’Reilly was great last season, but Duchene was great in seasons one and two. If a two year bridge contract at 3.5 is good enough for Duchene, it should be good enough for O’Reilly. Both players are in a similar situation. Duchene had very good freshman and sophomore seasons, but his third year was disappointing and derailed by injuries. That third year likely cost him money, so he was willing to accept a generous two year deal to prove that he’s worth more money. O’Reilly had a mediocre freshman and sophomore year, but had a breakout third season. Was that just a fluke though where he benefitted from playing with Gabriel Landeskog and playing more minutes with Duchene hurt? A two year deal to prove that year three was the normal and not the exception isn’t asking too much. If he performs well on the two year contract, then he’d be in line for a bigger raise that possibly exceeds the five million he’s currently looking for.
Based on reports, this stalemate doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. Even though O’Reilly was just released from his KHL contract, thus taking away some of his leverage, it seems like he’s willing to return to Europe to play hockey if he doesn’t get the money he’s seeking from the Avs. I have a hard time believing that he’d be happy playing in a foreign country against lesser competition, but then again I had a hard time believing that the Avs and O’Reilly would ever be in this situation, so you never know.
Rival teams are already calling about O’Reilly but as of now, the Avs have no intention of trading him. If things don’t improve within a week, they may want to change their stance. I don’t want to lose O’Reilly, but I do want someone who wants to play hockey for the Avs this year.
O’Reilly was the Avs best player last year, but would he really be missed this year? Matt Duchene has established himself as the number one center and Paul Stastny is a suitable number two (although he needs to pick up his game). In the off-season the Avs signed John Mitchell and he’s been everything I thought he would be and then some. He’s actually been the perfect number three center for the team. Plus the Avs have Joey Hishon (still recovering from a concussion but shows a lot of promise) and Michael Sgarbossa (who everyone seems to love) as centers in the system.
I’m not saying losing O’Reilly wouldn’t hurt the team, but they’re not hurting for talented centers. After losing Steve Downie to a season ending injury though, Chuck Kobasew being Chuck Kobasew, and Milan Hejduk, who has looked really good through three games mind you, getting up there in age, they could use a young, gritty winger.
General managers around the league are high on O’Reilly and the Avs know this, so they’re going to make sure they get fair value in return. They’re going to make a hockey trade since O’Reilly is still a young player coming off the best season of his career. They may not want to pay him what they think he’s worth, but they’re damn sure not going to allow another team to pay him that much without being compensated in return.
If the Avs were to trade O’Reilly, I’d try my best to deal him east, so he can’t come back to haunt you for at least this season. The Washington Capitals are in desperate need of a shake up. Would O’Reilly to Washington for Troy Brouwer and a draft pick (or, God willing, Filip Forsberg) be such a bad thing? The Toronto Maple Leafs need a number one center, how about O’Reilly for Nikolai Kulemin and a pick? Or if the Winnipeg Jets have truly given up on Evander Kane, why not ship him to Denver for O’Reilly? Point is, there is a market for O’Reilly and the Avs have needs.
Just months ago my favorite NBA team was in a similar situation. The Oklahoma City Thunder and James Harden couldn’t agree on a contract as the Thunder wanted to pay him what they thought he was worth and Harden wanted more. Instead of waiting around for a bad situation to get worse, the Thunder dealt Harden in order to rebuild team chemistry over the course of the season. The Thunder hasn’t missed a step since the trade. Granted the situations are a bit different once you dive deeper. The Thunder is already a top team in the NBA while the Avalanche is a fringe playoff team with a lot of potential. Harden was under contract with the Thunder and had to play with the team while the contract situation was hanging over his head. O’Reilly isn’t in the locker room, but it’s still an issue that can be brought up at anytime, especially if the team starts losing.
The Avs can put an end to this whole thing. They can either sign him, which doesn’t seem very likely right now, or trade him and move on. There’s no point in sitting around and allowing one of your top players to sit on the sideline when the team could use him or someone else. After the lockout, fans don’t want to hear about petty contract negotiations. Will fans be upset that the team and O’Reilly, a big fan favorite, couldn’t come to an agreement? Yes. But if the trade works out and the team wins, fans won’t care that O’Reilly gets dealt.
Both sides are at fault here. The Avs should probably pay O’Reilly more money because they’re so far under the cap and need to put the best team possible on the ice. At the same time, O’Reilly is no better than Duchene and shouldn’t be insulted that he’s asked to take equal money.
If O’Reilly is dealt, he’ll be missed. But he’s missed right now and the team has nothing but an empty locker space in his place. At least a trade brings in someone to fill that locker and compete on the ice.