Things are about to get extremely interesting between the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly. It appears that the Avalanche organization will take O’Reilly to “club-elected salary arbitration” this offseason. While arbitration is nothing out of the normal, “club-elected arbitration is a highly unusual scenario in the NHL.
O’Reilly is set for restricted free agent status and the Avalanche would have to pay him $6.5 million in order to retain his rights. It’s possible that an arbitrator could give him less money than that, which O’Reilly would have to take. The arbitrator will give O’Reilly an option for a one or two year deal. There’s still a chance that the Avs and O’Reilly agree to a long-term deal, but that scenario appears to be highly unlikely.
O’Reilly is coming off a very strong season. Moving away from center and to left wing, he scored a team-high 28 goals and posted 64 points. His two penalty minutes in 80 games earned him a Lady Byng nomination for the season as well.
The rift between O’Reilly and Avalanche management started in the lockout shortened 2013 year when the two sides couldn’t agree on a new contract. As a restricted free agent, O’Reilly signed a 2-year $10 million offer sheet from the Calgary Flames. The Avalanche matched, but it has made things complicated between O’Reilly and the organization ever since.
Thoughts: I think Ryan O’Reilly’s days in an Avalanche uniform are numbered. No matter what the arbitrator awards O’Reilly, and I expect it to be less than the $6.5 million he could make, things aren’t going to end well between the two sides. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Avs try to move O’Reilly at the NHL Draft, take back less salary, and then use some of that money saved to get Paul Stastny a new contract. There are a lot of scenarios that could play out between now and arbitration, and even once that’s “settled” there will be even more scenarios involving O’Reilly. It’s definitely an uncomfortable and sad situation for all involved, including fans.