The Colorado Avalanche completely ignored the needs of one of their most talented young players over the summer. Ryan O’Reilly, the teams leading point scorer in 2011-2012, was not given a contract before the NHL lockout took full force in September. After three months of waiting, the 21 year old is heading to the KHL on a two-year contract according to reports.
Eurolanche.com has reported that O’Reilly signed with the Mettalugr Magnitogorsk for two years, without a clause that simply allows O’Reilly to return after the lockout. However, there is a provision that states that if O’Reilly is awarded a favorable contract in another league his current one can be terminated. Details of the contract have not yet been released.
O’Reilly had a breakout campaign in his third season in the league. He more than doubled his point production and has 107 NHL points for his career. Pegged as a third line defensive forward his first two years, he became an offensive force when Rookie-of-the-Year Gabriel Landeskog joined his line. O’Reilly is well respected by teammates and is the hardest working player on the team. He is always the last player off the ice and takes losses hard.
Until contract details are released, O’Reilly’s odds of returning to the NHL at the lockout end cannot be determined. However, it is clear that O’Reilly’s frustration with the NHL reached a boiling point, since he waited so long to join with another team. He is the second player to sign a non-lockout contract with the KHL, joining Andrei Kostitsyn of the Nashville Predators.
Avalanche fans were unhappy that O’Reilly was not signed to a deal before the lockout. The NHL returning without O’Reilly in Colorado would amplify this discouragement.