Good things come to those who wait. The Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly waited until the last possible moment. Hours before they were scheduled to meet for a potentially messy arbitration hearing, team and player came to terms.
The Avalanche announced Wednesday morning that they had signed forward O’Reilly to a two-year contract. While financial terms were not disclosed, it is reportedly to be worth $12 million. On the deal, O’Reilly will make $5.8 million in the first season and $6.2 million in second. The annual $6 million cap hit matches that of the team’s highest paid player: Matt Duchene.
"We are pleased to have Ryan under contract," said Avalanche Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic. "We are looking at the upcoming training camp and season with a lot of excitement."
Netting a career-high 28 goals to lead the Avalanche last season, the 23-year-old O’Reilly also set a career best with 64 points. He also led the NHL in takeaways, with 83. A natural center, O’Reilly moved to wing last season due to the Avs’ depth up the middle. He still took important defensive draws for the team, winning 51.8 percent. After only taking one fluke minor penalty all season, he was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship.
The signing represents a compromise for both the team and O’Reilly. In arbitration, O’Reilly was seeking a one-year contract worth $6.75 million; while the Avalanche were hoping to pay the forward $5.525 million.
The gap between the two sides likely stemmed from the predatory offer sheet that O’Reilly signed with the Calgary Flames during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, which the Avs quickly matched. Under the terms of that two-year deal, O’Reilly made $3.5 million in the first season, and $6.5 in the second. O’Reilly didn’t appear to want to take a paycut, hence his high asking price. The Avalanche judged his previous deal by its average annual value ($5 million), and didn't seem to want to give him such a hefty raise.
While coming to an agreement should give hope to Avalanche faithful, it does not necessarily mean that the fences between the two sides have been completely mended. The deal not only increases O’Reilly’s trade value, but also allows O’Reilly to dictate his future upon its completion. After two seasons, O’Reilly will be an unrestricted free agent. If O’Reilly had been awarded a one-year deal in arbitration, the Avalanche still would have controlled his rights when it expired next summer.
With the signing, the Avalanche only have one restricted free agent left unsigned: Tyson Barrie. According to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, both the Avalanche and Barrie were waiting to see how the O’Reilly situation shook out before diving into negotiations.