There’s no denying that the contract holdout of young center Ryan O’Reilly was the biggest story for the Colorado Avalanche heading into the 2013 season. The team missed his production, and his absence was even more noticeable when Steve Downie and Gabriel Landeskog missing time due to injuries. With the saga now over and the Avalanche signing him to a two-year deal, there were worries about how well he would mesh with the team upon returning but things seem to have worked out in the best way possible for the Avalanche.
One of the main criticisms of O’Reilly’s holdout was that he wanted star-player money based on one great season. He led the team in 2011-12 with 55 points (18 goals, 37 assists), more than doubling his output in two previous NHL seasons. In the five games since his return, O’Reilly has two goals and four points. If he can keep up that kind of production for the rest of the shortened season, isn’t he justified in asking for the kind of contract he ended up getting? There were other teams interested in his services at the same price, and if the Avalanche really want to rebuild with young talent they need O’Reilly around for that process. In a perfect world, Matt Duchene would get paid more than anyone on the team because he far and away does the most for Colorado, but unfortunately that is not the case. If O’Reilly, who is 21, can put up similar numbers to Paul Stastny (who makes $6.6 million per season and is 27), he deserves a contract that reflects his talent being at an equal level as well as the greater upside he has due to his youth.
O’Reilly has now scored in back-to-back games, including a big goal in the Avs’ big win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. Colorado has won their last two games, and currently sit just four points out of playoff contention. Hopefully any bad blood between O’Reilly and his teammates doesn’t linger long and the winning can continue.