The Calgary Flames thought they were getting a franchise center. They didn’t. They also thought they were getting a road win against a division rival. That was not to be the case either. Instead the Colorado Avalanche played spoiler to both Thursday.
Not only did the Avs match Calgary’s 2-year $10 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly; they also overcame a 3-0 first period deficit to beat the Flames 5-4 in that night’s game.
“There’s no excuses. It’s brutal. It stinks,” said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla.
One can’t help but wonder if he is talking about the loss or not getting O’Reilly; as the Flames are desperate for a first-line center. To add insult to injury, it was later learned (and confirmed by the NHL) that due to playing in the KHL after the lockout had ended, O’Reilly was subject to waivers. If the Avs had declined to match the Flames’ offer, O’Reilly could have been claimed by another team; leaving Calgary without their center, and the first and third round picks they would have had to send to the Avalanche in compensation.
That is now a moot point however; as the Avalanche did match. After passing his physical Friday, O’Reilly is now set to skate in his first practice of the season with the Avs Saturday morning. The center took to Twitter to express his elation.
“Very excited to join back up with the boys. Can’t wait to get on the ice and play in front of the great Avalanche fans again,” O’Reilly tweeted, following with: “Sorry to everyone about the situation. I’m very glad to say that it is over and I now can focus on what I love to do.”
While the Avs will undoubtedly be happy to get last season’s leading scorer back in the fold; they cannot be thrilled with the way it transpired.
“It’s their right in the CBA (collective bargaining agreement). If that’s the way they want to do their business, that’s their right,” said general manager Greg Sherman. ” “The fact that we received the offer today on a day of a game, and against them, that’s their prerogative, that’s their business.”
In the NHL it is somewhat of an unwritten rule that you don’t sign other teams’ restricted free agents to offer sheets. Even casting that aside, the deal puts the famously frugal Avalanche in a bit of a pinch.
While they have plenty of cap space now, the number will shrink next season from $70.2 million to $64.3 million; leaving the Avalanche with only roughly $6.3 million in space. There are also implications for the 2014 offseason.
That summer will see O’Reilly, Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog all become free agents. With the way O’Reilly’s contract is structured, it will require a qualifying offer of $6.5 million to retain his rights. If the Avalanche decide that price is too steep, it is conceivable that the Flames could have their center for not only a cheaper price; but also without having to surrender anything to Colorado.
While this was a move that will absolutely make the Avalanche a more competitive team; $5 million a season is quite a formidable price for a player who has never scored 20 goals in a single campaign. The implications of this contract could lead to a restructuring of the Avalanche’s core. This is the signing that will define Greg Sherman. While perhaps the right move, the implications of this contract could also lead to the restructuring of the Avalanche’s front office.