One of the biggest storylines of last season was the contract holdout drama brought on by Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly. Even though last year’s lockout-shortened NHL season kicked off on January 12, O’Reilly didn’t take the ice until the end of February. During his holdout, the Calgary Flames gave him an offer sheet that practically forced Colorado’s hand, as they quickly matched the offer with a two-year deal.
Well, once again, we’ve got O’Reilly contract issues coming up in the horizon. Due to be a restricted free agent at the end of the year, the Avalanche will have to determine whether or not they want to go through this with the Canadian forward for the second year in a row.
For what it’s worth, though, O’Reilly really wants to stick around in Denver.
“I like it here. I want to play here. I want to stay here,” O’Reilly said. “But it’s just stuff you can’t control right now. It’s easier when you don’t have to worry about that stuff and just play the game, but I don’t control it. I just stay out of the business side ’til the season is over.”
One doesn’t need to speculate too much as to why O’Reilly is focused on staying with the Avalanche. The worst team in the league last year, the Avs quickly rebounded as they surged out of the gate to open this current campaign, thanks in part to fiery new coach –and franchise legend—Patrick Roy. Though they’ve since cooled a bit, Colorado is currently sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference. O’Reilly is certainly doing his part to help with that, as he’s currently fourth on the team in points, with 16 goals and 14 assists. This will definitely add some leverage to his pending contract talks with the team.
The thing to note, though, is that the Avalanche are no longer in the dire situation they were sitting in last season. Not only are they maintaining their place as a legit threat in the league, they’re also pretty stacked at center. Along with O’Reilly, the Avs are also getting huge contributions from Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon. While this is a great problem to have, it also forces Colorado to consider if O’Reilly is a little more replaceable than he was last year.
O’Reilly may mean it when he says he doesn’t want to leave Colorado, but if he is, the team’s current overload of talented centers may force him to consider taking a hometown discount next time negotiations come up.