Success at IIHF Worlds and Ryan O’Reilly’s Avalanche Contract


Colorado Avalanche players are enjoying a lot of success at the IIHF World Championship, especially those playing for Team Canada. Players such as centers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon are hopefully going to take that success back to Colorado next season and capitalize on it for the Avalanche.

Center Ryan O’Reilly perhaps has an added interest in doing well at IIHF Worlds. It’s possible O’Reilly’s Avalanche contract can be increased with his success at the championship.

The O’Reilly Dilemma

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has said signing O’Reilly to a contract extension is a top priority for the Avalanche front offices. Indeed, he stated that the team wasn’t going to go into the next season with the “distraction” of O’Reilly being a pending unrestricted free agent. The implication was clear — the Avs are signing O’Reilly this summer or trading him.

According to NHL Numbers, O’Reilly is set to make $6.2 million next season. That will be more than any other Avalanche player by a small margin — well, small for pro sports — $200,000. Center Matt Duchene and goalie Semyon Varlamov are each set to make $6 million.

The Avalanche don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to cap space, and there are a couple other players who really need to be extended — especially defenseman Erik Johnson, who is also an unrestricted free agent after next season. (We’ll explore that in depth in a future post.) Center Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Tyson Barrie are restricted free agents after next season, and there’s no question but that they should be extended. (No one wants to see other teams making either of them offer sheets — it’d be too costly for the Avs.)

So, we’re back to the same dilemma we always have — the O’Reilly dilemma.

O’Reilly as an Avalanche

It’s not a question of whether the Avalanche want him — the Colorado Avalanche want Ryan O’Reilly. He is great with the faceoffs and is a strong two-way center who was second in the entire NHL on takeaways. He was in a three-way tie with Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay for points total with 55. He has chemistry with the team.

However, the Colorado Avalanche don’t want to be like the St. Louis Blues with Paul Stastny — they don’t want to overpay to sign O’Reilly. Last year Sakic talked about the “team structure,” the unsaid proposal that no one on the team could make more than Matt Duchene. They had to bend that a little with next year’s earnings, though O’Reilly only made $5.8 million while Duchene’s at a consistent $6 million.

Are the Avalanche going to stay with the internal team structure as they go into negotiations with O’Reilly? Presumably the Avalanche want to sign him long-term, assuring him a job and guaranteed salary, rather than throw a bunch of money at him. However, O’Reilly has seemed to lean on the side of money.

O’Reilly and IIHF Worlds

Will O’Reilly’s success at IIHF Worlds be considered in contractual negotiations? Potentially anything can be brought up in such a situation. O’Reilly is playing only on the fourth line, but he has three assists in three games. If he goes on to really shine with the star-studded Team Canada, his agent could bring it up in negotiations.

Whether the Avalanche put any credence in the argument in another matter. It’s unlikely Colorado’s front offices will be much moved since success at Worlds doesn’t help the Avs any.

Besides, centers Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene are enjoying greater success. MacKinnon has already earned a goal and three assists. And Duchene, around whom the Avalanche team structure revolves? He’s already got two goals and four assists.

That doesn’t bode well for using success at IIHF Worlds as a point in O’Reilly’s Avalanche contract negotiations.

Next: Avs Players and IIHF Worlds Domination

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