When Training Camp opened this morning for the Colorado Avalanche, Family Sports Center had a key player missing. Ryan O’Reilly – who is currently an Restricted Free Agent (RFA) is still in Russia playing in the KHL.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) tweeted “Hasn’t been any dialogue of consequence between COL and Ryan O’Reilly’s camp for last couple of days (today and yesterday).” Even worse, Ryan O’Reilly’s dad was boasting on Twitter this morning about booking a trip to “his boy” play in Russia in 15 days. Clearly, things aren’t good.
Reports suggest that the length of a potential contract is a big sticking point. O’Reilly wants a five year deal – which would make him eligible to become a UFA at the end of the deal (i.e. huge payday) and the Avs want a shorter deal which keeps their options open - especially if O’Reilly’s play slips. I’m starting to worry that this could be a lengthy holdout because I think both sides believe they have leverage in negotiations.
O’Reilly’s argument is likely something like this: “Hey Avs, I was your best all around player last season. I led the team in scoring last season with 55 points. No one on the team works harder than me. How can you go into a short 48 game season without your leading scorer? Remember, every regular season game is nearly twice as important. How can you sell your fans that you are serious about winning without their one of your top players? How can you possibly win constantly without one of your top players?”
From the Avalanche point of view, its pretty simple. “O’Reilly, buddy, do you really want to waste a season of your career in the craptastic KHL? You’re a Canadian kid – you want to play in the NHL – you know it, we know it, even that idiot Don Cherry knows it. And if you want to play in the NHL – you have to play for us. So, you take what we offer you. Just like Duchene did when he signed a two year $7M deal this summer. Sure you were okay last year, but in the previous two seasons before last year – you only had 26 points. We need to see more before we give you a lengthy deal.”
The optimist in me says both sides need a deal too badly for this thing to stretch on very long. The pessimist in me reminds me that I said the same thing about the NHL and NHLPA in September, before the half season killing lockout began. Let’s hope Avs management and O’Reilly aren’t as stupid as Gary Bettman and Don Fehr. The good news is that Bettman and Fehr didn’t exactly set the bar very high.