Well, this is certainly a twist ending. After weeks of contract standoffs between the Colorado Avalanche and forward Ryan O’Reilly, the two sides were able to agree upon a new deal just hours before heading into arbitration. O’Reilly signed on for a two-year, $12 million contract which prevents the need for what would’ve been a very unpleasant hearing.
While this is great news for Avalanche fans everywhere, as O’Reilly is one of the team’s best players, it’s worth noting that this situation needs to be approached with cautious optimism. O’Reilly might be back in the fold, but this hardly means he and Colorado’s front office are on perfect terms.
Remember, it was O’Reilly’s agent who said his client would likely seek a short-term deal which would eventually allow him to be an unrestricted free agent at contract’s end. This morning, said situation fulfilled itself. So, yes, the Avs have a great player under contract, but the chance of him leaving for nothing in two years is still a real possibility.
Along with O’Reilly getting the short-term deal he appeared to be planning for, you also have to note the fact that he’s gotten into nasty contact talks with Colorado for two straight years now. Sure, he still ended up signing with the team, but it’s hard to believe these disputes aren’t weighing on his mind. Who’s to say things will go differently the next time talks start up?
For what it’s worth, Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic claims this latest deal was not done with the intent of eventually trading O’Reilly away, further stating the team’s main focus is keeping the forward around long-term. While the length of the contract is small, it does grant the Avs additional time to try and mend fences with O’Reilly, a task which is practically required if they do intend to keep him beyond his current deal.
However, if O’Reilly is fully committed to riding it out in Denver for the next two years before leaving, the contract does give Colorado an opening to trade him. But, this isn’t simple either. If the Avalanche are indeed intending to try and hang on to O’Reilly for the long-haul, then they obviously aren’t going to be looking at trade options right away. Suppose the Avs chose to ignore the idea of trading O’Reilly, instead trying to negotiate for a longer deal. If these attempts prove unsuccessful as time goes by, the team might not be able to get as much for him as they’d like. Other clubs won’t be as willing to pony up prized goods for a player with just one remaining year or less on his deal.
While it’s great both sides of this dispute were able to settle outside of arbitration, there’s still work to be done in order to ensure this isn’t a two-year farewell tour for O’Reilly. For all we know, today was the first step in calming the waters between player and team. However, it was merely one step. The Avs got O’Reilly to resign short-term, now they need to continue working to make sure they can keep him around even longer.