Thoughts on the O’Reilly Contract Situation

The contract status of Avs forward Ryan O’Reilly has rumbled on for the better part of a year now, and worryingly there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

The 21-year old was the teams top scorer last season, almost certainly their best defensive forward and formed arguably one of the leagues top lines with Gabriel Landeskog and Steve Downie last year.

So why is it taking so long to get a deal done?

The O’Reilly camp seem to be seeking around $4m per year, maybe even as much $5m per year, with a second contract that would lead to unrestricted free agency for the Clinton, Ontario native.

With a good all round game and age on his side, it’s not hard to see why O’Reilly is looking to cash in on a strong season last term with the promise of a continued upswing as he matures and develops.

Clearly any player will seek to get the best deal they can. It’s only logical. For some that will mean chasing the most money, for others it is a hockey decision with a willingness to take less dollar value to play in a market they are happy in.

Matt Duchene is one such example of the later, signing a $3.5m per year deal in a bid to prove his worth and cash in in summer 2014.

With a fellow young Avalanche star like Duchene following this path, it is not entirely unreasonable that the franchise wants its other strong young center to do the same. Earn the big pay day, not just expect it straight off the back off the entry level deal.

Problem is O’Reilly has seen numerous other young stars cash in at the end of their entry level deal. He also saw winger Dave Jones sign a 4 year, $16m deal in Denver. A contract I think is only going to tie the Avs hands when it comes to negotiating with free agents over the next few years.

Paul Stastny also received a big pay day from the team, taking home easily the clubs biggest salary at $6.6m per season.

If you’re Ryan O’Reilly, do you feel you’re worth at least as much as Dave Jones? Or that you’ll soon surpass Stastny?

With Stastny too heading for free agency in 2014, the current situation is further compounded by the risk of going from three strong center’s, to one – or even none of if, heaven forbid, they should not get a deal done with Duchene!

It seems inconceivable Stastny will be taking home more than $6m per season on his next contract, but O’Reilly’s status may determine if the Avs stick with Stastny or look to move him over the next 18 months. Creating some potential flash points for the franchise. Dealing Stastny might allow the club to bring in some missing pieces.

Equally, moving O’Reilly may allow the same…

Some have suggested a major hang up for the Avs is whether O’Reilly himself was the key piece on that great line last year, or if he benefitted from a Calder Trophy winner on one wing and a resurgent Steve Downie on the other.

Listening to Hockey Talk with Denver Post’s Adrian Dater this morning (which was excellent by the way), there was also talk that the drawn out contract talks cost O’Reilly the ‘C’ – the Avs opting to give the captaincy to Landeskog instead, leaving a sour taste for the Avalanche’s 2nd round draft pick in 2009.

These headaches are made no easier by the fact the team isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with offensive talent right now, mainly thanks to a succession of injuries, and the idea of John Mitchell being a regular top 6 forward probably won’t sit too well with fans.

That isn’t a slight on Mitchell per say, he’s made a great start to the season. But he was a 4th line centre for the Rangers and if we’re frank he is really only a solid depth forward and always has been. Looking to him for top 6 level production over the long term is probably going to garner similar results to looking for water on the moon.

The ramifications of the club continuing down this road is that they risk alienating a fragile fan base. The glory days of Sakic, Forbserg, Roy are gone but the team needs to start showing some sort of commitment to winning again, and freezing out O’Reilly is not sending out any sort of positive message in my eyes.

Most concerning of all perhaps, O’Reilly is not the first player to be frozen out after rejecting the teams first contract offer. Semyon Varlamov has done his part to ease the loss of Craig Anderson. But losing O’Reilly under a similar cloud might be more than a few fans can take.

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on February 4, 2013, in Colorado Avalanche, NHL and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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