For all the greatness that was the Colorado Avalanche from the time they moved from Quebec in 1995 through the 2004-2005 lockout, there was always a code that left players out to dry. If a player disagreed with the Avalanche and what they wanted to pay, there were consequences. While the Avs greatness has faded away, this code largely remains for the players. As Ryan O’Reilly remains a restricted free agent in a contract dispute, he has arrived in this territory with the club. For each day he stays in the KHL with his brother, Cal, his chances of remaining an Avalanche player plummet.
The Avalanche’s Sandis Ozolinsh, Valeri Kamensky, and Chris Drury were all phenomenal players for the Avalanche before they entered into contract disputes that led to arbitration settlements. After the players were awarded contracts from the arbitration process, they were quickly traded away. This year, the Avalanche had a large restricted free agent class. Only Jamie McGinn filed for arbitration, but came to an agreement before an arbitration hearing took place. The rest of the free agents except for O’Reilly also negotiated deals with the club.
When the lockout became imminent and O’Reilly was still not signed to a contract, people assumed he was waiting to see the cap restrictions before committing to the Avalanche. Colorado had to dismantle their team after the last lockout and they have kept their salaries low to avoid a similar fate this time. O’Reilly is the most selfless guy on the team and it made sense that he would wait to settle. However, the settlement never came.
According to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, O’Reilly is looking for a five-year, four million dollar a year deal. Compared to other contracts the Avalanche have awarded to the likes of David Jones, this is reasonable for the team’s leading scorer last year. If that truly is the number, the Avalanche would be wise to sign him and be happy they have O’Reilly locked up for so long at that relatively low rate.
Despite the Avalanche’s statements to the contrary, history shows that it is highly likely that the Avs will now trade away the rights to O’Reilly instead of negotiating with the center. This fits the general trend of NHL lockout negotiations, which include very little negotiating. O’Reilly is a fan favorite and the hardest working guy on the ice every night. However, a policy from the glory days still holds true for the Avalanche. They don’t answer to anyone. Cue Ryan O’Reilly’s departure.