The Colorado Avalanche have now been forced to make a decision concerning embattled forward and restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly. Word started leaking on Twitter and other media on Thursday that the Calgary Flames have signed O’Reilly to an offer sheet, and the Avalanche will now have seven days to match.
The Flames’ offer would pay O’Reilly a $1 million salary for 2013, a $2.5 million signing bonus and then an astonishing $6.5 million next season. Colorado can either match the offer or receive two draft picks from the Flames as compensation. This seems like a no-brainer for the Avalanche, who continue to be unwilling to pay O’Reilly the money he wants. Now there is another team who is willing to pay him that money, and you get a couple draft picks that will be helpful in the ongoing rebuilding process. After all, how happy is O’Reilly going to be if he does end up in an Avalanche uniform this season? And it’s not like Colorado can be bummed about not getting more for him in trade, they’ve certainly had plenty of time to get a deal done.
The amount of money being thrown O’Reilly’s way is a bit high, which makes this a somewhat risky proposal for Calgary. However, the team is in desperate need of a scoring center, and if O’Reilly can bring any of the production he showed last season he would have an immediate impact. The 2011-12 season saw O’Reilly lead the Avalanche with 18 goals and 55 points. Those may not seem like amazing numbers, but they would have put him third on the Flames, behind only Jarome Iginla (who makes $7 million per season) and Olli Jokinen (who departed via free agency in the offseason and is getting $4 million per season from the Winnipeg Jets). Give the Flames some credit here for making a move and forcing Colorado’s hand as they try and improve on a 7-7-4 record and move up the Northwest Division standings. As we saw with the Shea Weber-Philadelphia Flyers offer sheet, it’s not a given that O’Reilly is headed to Calgary but at least we will know in a week’s time when, where and what team the young center will be playing (for) this season.