The Colorado Avalanche and forward Ryan O’Reilly are heading into what will likely be a very nasty arbitration hearing regarding a new contract. Even if the two sides agree on a short-term deal, it’s sounding like O’Reilly won’t be a long-term fixture with the club.
But, who knows, perhaps things won’t be as doom-filled as everyone is predicting. Maybe O’Reilly and the Avs bury the hatchet and work out a deal both sides can appreciate. Or, maybe Colorado decides to put all that hope in a garbage can and light it on fire by way of proposing O’Reilly actually take a pay-cut.
Sadly, while that last one should be the most far-fetched scenario, it actually happened. Yes, dealing with tenuous contract talks with O’Reilly for the second time in just over a calendar year, the Avs thought it was best to counter his most recent proposal with an offer to sign for less.
Word is O’Reilly is seeking about $6.75 million per year on his new deal. However, the Avalanche instead proposed a deal for $5.525 million. Last year, playing on the Calgary Flames offer sheet Colorado eventually matched, O’Reilly made $6.5 million. He also put forth his best season as a pro, scoring 28 goals and 64 points while also proving to be one of the league’s better defensive forwards. As a reward, the Avs would like to pay O’Reilly less money.
Seriously, though, what is Colorado thinking? The entire hockey world is under the belief that things are about to get incredibly messy between the Avs and one of their best players, with an arbitration hearing all but guaranteed to be tension-filled. So, in attempts to avoid it, Colorado decided to see if O’Reilly would welcome a 15% pay decrease?
You could argue O’Reilly may be asking a lot in this situation. If he were to get his demand of $6.75 million, he would be Colorado’s highest paid player. He had a great season last year, but he would also be getting more money than Matt Duchene, who has had a more productive career.
At the same time, this isn’t so much about how much O’Reilly deserves, it’s wondering what the thinking is behind Colorado attempting to convince him into taking less money. Most teams want to avoid the need for any sort of mediation in contract negotiations, but this move appears like it will only encourage it. It’s likely to come across as an immense insult, and will set the stage for what could be one of the most toxic arbitration sessions in recent memory.
The relationship between O’Reilly and the Avalanche has been a rocky one, going back to the stalled contract talks last year which almost resulted in O’Reilly staying overseas despite the conclusion of the league lockout. There was little hope the rapport amongst the two parties was about to take an upswing, but this latest instance could very well slam the door on any chances of keeping O’Reilly around for the long-haul.