Let’s face it, if there’s one thing you want to avoid in the world of professional sports offseasons, it’s salary arbitration. It’s the unwanted step taken during contract negotiations which can’t get figured out. You essentially have a front office and a player arguing over just what exactly said player is worth, which is about as pleasant as it sounds.
Currently, it’s looking like the Colorado Avalanche are facing an ugly arbitration session with one of their talented youngsters, Ryan O’Reilly. It’s another chapter in the ongoing struggles O’Reilly and the Avalanche have had when it comes to resigning. This time, however, it’s looking like its going to end in ugly fashion.
Remember, this isn’t the first time things got heated between the two parties. Just last year, Colorado was at an impasse with O’Reilly, leading the Calgary Flames to sweep in and try to sign the forward to a two-year offer sheet. However, the Avs matched it. It wasn’t the most ideal way to keep O’Reilly around, but they avoided losing one of their top players.
Now, the two sides are at it again. O’Reilly would like to stay long-term, but Colorado hasn’t been able to come up with anything he’d be on board to sign. So, it’s off to an arbitration hearing neither party should be looking forward to. In reading the comments from O’Reilly’s agent, Pat Morris, it sounds like, even if a one to two year deal is struck, O’Reilly isn’t long for Colorado.
“Ryan would like to stay in Colorado. At the same time, a long-term deal has not been worked out, or isn’t close to being worked out,” Morris said. “So, Ryan’s unrestricted in two years, and under the model now – given that Colorado has [filed for arbitration] – short-term looks like what the future is for Ryan going forward, possibly year to year, or for the next two years.”
Coming into the second straight contract standoff, O’Reilly can’t be a big fan of the Avs front office right now. So, even if he signs on for a small term, it won’t change his opinion. His agent is already saying, in no uncertain terms, that Colorado is probably going to lose O’Reilly in a couple years. And that’s just what’s being said publically. Who knows how ugly this will be during the arbitration sessions.
The Avalanche need to figure out how to end this in a way which benefits the team, however it doesn’t look like any solution like this involves O’Reilly being there long-term. As this ugliness gets dragged out, the relationship between team and player gets more and more tenuous. O’Reilly has watched Colorado fail to give him a contract he can appreciate for two straight years now. How does this imply the team understands his value and wants to keep him around for the long haul?
Colorado now faces quite a conundrum. As arbitration gets worse, the team needs to strongly consider the idea of trading O’Reilly. If he ends up signing a two-year deal, he’ll undoubtedly be planning on walking away at contract’s end. The Avalanche would risk losing him for nothing, as they did with Paul Stastny this summer. Their relationship with O’Reilly appears, at the moment, beyond repair. Do they try and figure this all out via arbitration? Or is it time to call it what it is and try to at least get something back in return for losing O’Reilly via trade?
It’ll be interesting to watch as an outsider. For Avalanche fans, and the team front office for that matter, this won’t be a lot of fun.