Avalanche Poll: Erik Johnson vs Ryan O’Reilly Contracts


All the talk about the Colorado Avalanche and contract extensions tends to concern center Ryan O’Reilly. This is with good reason — O’Reilly has been in two contentious contract negotiations already. He even sat out part of a season until the team at least somewhat met his demands.

Even Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic was talking about O’Reilly’s contract situation at yesterday’s press conference:

"“I like Ryan a lot. He is a very valuable player. He is part of our core. My first priority would be to sign him.”"

However, Sakic has also hinted that the team will trade O’Reilly rather than let unrestricted free agency loom over him and the Avs next season:

"“I would prefer him not playing [the season] out. I think distractions alone, I don’t think the team needs it. I don’t think he needs it. That’s why it is important for us that we have something done.”"

That said, another extraordinarily valuable player for the Colorado Avalanche is about to enter the final year of his contract before unrestricted free agency — defenseman Erik Johnson.

So, let’s acknowledge that the best case scenario is the Colorado Avalanche signing both players. However, if for some reason they can only extend one, which contract is more important?

The Case for Ryan O’Reilly

Is Ryan O’Reilly part of the problem with the Colorado Avalanche offense? Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY

Ryan O’Reilly is the Colorado Avalanche’s best puck possession player — he’s one of the best in the NHL. He ranked #2 in takeaways this season and #1 last season. O’Reilly was also the team’s best faceoff taker this season.

Ryan O’Reilly was one of six Colorado Avalanche players who made 50+ points this season. He was fifth on the team for points production with 17 goals and 38 assists. He also scored some really big goals at key times for the Avalanche.

O’Reilly has shown himself to be capable of playing in the top-six. He represented Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, winning gold. He has chemistry with Matt Duchene, but he also did well on a line with winger Gabriel Landeskog this season.

That said, one of the biggest sticking points with Ryan O’Reilly is that he’s asking for a lot of money — more than either franchise player Matt Duchene or captain Gabriel Landeskog. He is not better than either player. He has never been better — he’s never had a 30-goal season and only one 20+ goal seasons (Duchene’s had four). He’s not the leader Landeskog is.

Nonetheless, O’Reilly is considered part of the core of young talent for the Avalanche.

The Case for Erik Johnson

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson has the best hockey smile. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The only downside to Erik Johnson is he appears to be cursed. Just as he gets his career going, something sidelines him, such as this year’s surgery that cut his season in half.

That said, defenseman Erik Johnson brings a lot to the table. He’s a big defenseman with strong two-way skills. He possesses a bomb of a shot from the point and a pool player’s knack for banking the puck for the rebound. This season he scored 12 goals in 47 games. Offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie took 80 games to match that total.

Johnson is also a physical defenseman. His hits are bone-jarring. He’s strong on the puck and on his skates — the juggernaut is hard to knock off of his game. He skates fast and powerfully like the Condor he’s called.

Erik Johnson has represented Team USA in numerous international competitions. He even won silver at the 2010 Olympics.

The biggest case for Erik Johnson’s contract extension is that he’s the cornerstone of the Colorado Avalanche defense. Without Johnson, the Avs have diminutive rover Tyson Barrie and a whole host of second-rate talent.

Avalanche Poll

It’s no secret that I think the Colorado Avalanche need to extend Erik Johnson’s contract — I even wrote a post all about it. However, GM Joe Sakic has only been talking about Ryan O’Reilly, so there’s that.

What about you? What do you think, Avs Nation? Which contract extension is more important for the Colorado Avalanche?

Next: What's the Meaning Behind the Sakic and Roy Presser?

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