The Avs have been at loggerheads with one of their best players for years, but in avoiding arbitration with the Lady Byng winner, they’ve put themselves in a better position for the future.
Arbitration is not a fun process, which is why so many players and teams try to avoid it. With Colorado re-signing center Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year deal on Wednesday with a cap hit of $6 million, the Avs managed to side-step what would have been another unpleasant experience with the talented pivot.
Determining O’Reilly’s worth has been a constant battle between the franchise and the player and an official arbitration hearing, where teams essentially have to tear down their own player in order to prove why they want to pay him less than what he is demanding, would not have helped.
The $12-million pact for O’Reilly is a fair amount for a player who is great at both ends of the ice, win faceoffs and contribute to both the power play and penalty kill. Among Colorado regulars still on the roster for the upcoming season, O’Reilly ranked fourth in Corsi, while finishing nearly 54 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. This is noteworthy because he only started there about 49 percent of the time.
With Paul Stastny gone, the future looks pretty clear in Colorado. Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and O’Reilly are the drivers up front, with O’Reilly fitting in at either center or wing. For now, Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay round out the top six and that’s pretty impressive. While only recently it seemed as if O’Reilly would be a goner as soon as his arbitrated contract had ended, the fact the two sides came to an agreement beforehand is positive. On the ice, the Avs and O’Reilly go great together.
They’ve got a No. 1 goalie in Semyon Varlamov and all those great aforementioned forwards. Now the Avs just need to figure out the defense and they’ll be battling Chicago and Los Angeles for Stanley Cup banners.
But O’Reilly is an important part of the overall equation and if both sides can make it work after this new two-year contract is up, then the Avs will be in a good position. If not, they may lose him for nothing to unrestricted free agency, wondering what might have been.