Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic and O’Reilly shook hands on a two-year deal that awards the forward $5.8 million for the coming season and $6.2 million the next, for a total of $12 million.
Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, the Avalanche had the right to take O’Reilly to salary arbitration if they couldn’t sign him as a restricted free agent. They did just that. According to O’Reilly’s agent, the news wasn’t well-received:
“We had some warning that the arb might be taken advantage of. It’s within the CBA. Ryan understands that. He also understands that it’s unique, that no player has been arbed for a pay cut that is of his stature. Some people might look a little sideways that a team has done that to a special player, but they certainly have the business right to do that.”
O’Reilly is, indeed, a “special player,” and one who is popular with the fans. However, it’s also well-known among fans, sports reporters and, presumably, the front offices that the going rate for a player of O’Reilly’s “stature” was a mite lower than the $6.75 million he asked for in the arbitration paperwork. It was, in fact, a lot closer to the $5.525 million the Avalanche countered with.
Sakic, for his part, expressed pleasure at the signing:
“When we shook hands, I think we were both very happy. I know the Colorado Avalanche is very happy. He’s a very valuable player to us and we want him long-term. That (type of contract) hasn’t happened yet, but we’ll keep working at it and see what happens.”
O’Reilly led the team in goals, playing on a line with #1 center Matt Duchene, and was third in scoring, behind Duchene and captain Gabriel Landeskog. He was tops in power play goals with six and tied Duchene for game winners. He also won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanlike conduct.
O’Reilly’s $6 million cap hit ties him with Duchene as the franchise’s highest paid player.
Now, it remains to be seen what happens with O’Reilly over the next two seasons. Once this contract is up, he’s an unrestricted free agent. Both Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy have declared that O’Reilly is integral to the team.
However, there is no way either one is going to let O’Reillly pull a Paul Stastny on them. If he doesn’t agree to a long-term contract in the next two years, he’s almost certain to get traded to another team.
As far as Avalanche fans are concerned, most are expressing relief and gratitude across social media. However, there’s definitely an undercurrent of discontent. O’Reilly’s teammate Erik Johnson summed it up best in his tweet upon hearing the news — O’Reilly seems a little like Scrooge McDuck diving in to a pile of money.