Colorado Avalanche: Ryan O’Reilly should be top free agent priority

The Colorado Avalanche organization should be very proud of what they were able to accomplish during the first two days of July. On Monday, the Avalanche shipped winger P.A. Parenteau to the Montreal Canadians, in exchange for forward Daniel Briere. Then on Tuesday, there was a flurry of moves, which saw a few big names arrive in Colorado. Among the bunch were forward Jarome Iginla and defenseman Brad Stuart. However, there remains one player yet to be signed that Colorado is hoping to ink to a long-term contract in the very near future.

Enter Ryan O’Reilly.

Colorado Avalanche

The 23-year-old has now become a must sign, following the departure of teammate Paul Stastny. As it stands, O’Reilly figures to be one of the most valuable players in the NHL, let alone on the team. The Lady Byng Award winner is one of the top two-way players in the league. O’Reilly, also known as “The Factor”, is a central part of Colorado’s young core.

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It’s now up to executive vice president of hockey operations, Joe Sakic, and O’Reilly’s agent, Pat Morris, to get a deal signed. However, there’s a catch in the negotiations. Come July 15th, if the Avs and O’Reilly still haven’t settled on a new contract, the two sides will head to arbitration. Basically what this means is that the Avalanche don’t want to pay him his $6.5 million salary from a year ago. Since the Avalanche have elected to take O’Reilly before an arbitrator, he’ll get to select either a one or two-year deal which will pay him at least 85% of his previous base salary. This means that O’Reilly could make no less than $5.525 million next season. Colorado has laid out a contract structure for their group and they’re sticking to that plan. They refuse to pay O’Reilly more than they think he’s worth.

Colorado Avalanche

O’Reilly is a budding superstar, with offensive finesse and defensive prowess.

Saturday came and went without O’Reilly receiving an offer sheet from another team. Although, the Avalanche explicitly said that if an offer was made to the RFA, that they would automatically match that offer sheet. If another team had offered him a long-term contract, it may have been Colorado’s best chance to keep him for more than a year or two.

It’s certainly no secret that the history between the two sides has been a little rocky. In the lockout-shortened season, O’Reilly held out during training camp and into the campaign. The only reason that he even suited up during the season is because Colorado’s hand was forced. The Avalanche ended up matching a two-year offer sheet made by Calgary. Here’s to hoping that a frosty history, paired with this club-elected arbitration, doesn’t push O’Reilly out of Colorado.

Long-time Colorado Avalanche correspondent and columnist Adrian Dater, believes O’Reilly would be a perfect fit on the second line for next season, playing alongside center Matt Duchene and right wing Alex Tanguay. Although O’Reilly’s natural position is at center, he put up more than impressive numbers last year at left wing (28G-36A) and remains a very flexible top-six forward.

According to Sakic, Colorado has every intention of locking O’Reilly up for the long-term. He has an incredibly close relationship with head coach Patrick Roy, who has described O’Reilly as one of his favorite players. On top of that, O’Reilly has publicly stated his desire to stay with the team because he believes this can be a contending team and why shouldn’t he? Coming off of one of the best seasons in franchise history, Colorado has nowhere to go but up and O’Reilly figures to be crucial part of the team’s success.

[Colorado Avalanche Team Page]

  • Wayne Keller

    I hope they sign him, if not, Im afraid it may be the biggest blunder in nhl history. Hes so unique . Two way forwrd, will take the puck from the opposition seemingly at will. Without the factor, the avs would drop out of contention status. I know one man doesnt make the team, but players like O’Reilly are very key factors. Besides, him and dutchy.and 26 were the avs since 08, i believe. Hes earned his stay as nd i hope that the Great Joe Sakic wont let us and the cup hopes down by letting him go. Sign him up for.a. nice decade or so. Let him never p for another city ever! Go Avs.

    • Wayne Keller

      Sorry for typos, couldnt see what i was writing past the first line. Just to clarify, 26, 9, and 90 were the very core of the avs wish it didnt have to change with stastny to the blues, but it is quite important to keep every one under 25 yrs of age for a signifigant term in the mile high city.Theyve been an unbelievable young fearless squad. Lets keep O’Reilly and cup hopes alive!