DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche didn’t need seven days to match the Calgary Flames’ offer sheet to forward Ryan O’Reilly.
The Avalanche matched it just hours after Calgary announced Thursday it had signed the restricted free agent to an offer sheet.
Colorado, which owned the 22-year-old centre’s rights after his entry-level contract expired last summer, chose not to take Calgary’s first- and third-round picks in the 2013 NHL draft as compensation if O’Reilly went to the Flames.
The Avalanche announced the decision during the first period of Thursday night’s game against Calgary, which Colorado ended up winning 5-4.
“This was a goal of ours from the outset, to get Ryan signed,” Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said. “That goal has never changed. Sometimes the process takes a little longer than you would expect or want, but he’s staying with the Colorado Avalanche.”
Sherman said the speed with which Colorado matched the offer showed its commitment to O’Reilly.
“Given the timeframe we moved on this, it’s clear what our (objective) was,” Sherman said. “We moved very quickly and efficiently to make a decision to match the offer.”
Calgary general manager Jay Feaster said the Flames put forth the offer sheet after failing to trade for the forward.
“We think Ryan O’Reilly is a franchise player,” Feaster said. “We had extensive trade discussions with Colorado but felt the price to acquire the player via trade was too steep. We felt it would negatively impact our future, so we made the decision to go ahead with the offer sheet.”
Multiple reports suggest the offer sheet carries an average annual value of $5 million. O’Reilly will make $1 million in base salary this season, with a signing bonus of $2.5 million. His 2013-14 salary will be $6.5 million.
That means that O’Reilly’s next contract with the Avalanche will have to be worth at least $6.5 million annually to retain his rights.
Because Colorado matched the offer, O’Reilly cannot be traded for a calendar year.
Avalanche centre Paul Stastny was pleased Colorado wasted no time in matching the offer.
“It shows that we aren’t going to let one of our top players go for draft choices,” he said. “Management wasn’t hesitant to match it. They didn’t wait seven days. Doing it right away shows that they are committed.”
Feaster said the contract was written to make it harder for Colorado to match.
“We tried to structure it in a way that we felt would give us a better chance to get him,” he said.
O’Reilly will travel to Denver for a physical and if everything checks out, he will join the Avalanche on their three-game road trip starting Sunday in Columbus.
Sherman said Calgary’s decision to try to sign one of Colorado’s restricted free agents was strictly business.
“It’s their right within the (collective bargaining agreement) to put that offer sheet forward and we have our rights within the CBA to match it,” Sherman said. “If that’s the way they want to do their business, that’s their right. The fact that we received the offer the day of the game, against them, that’s their prerogative. That’s their business.”
The 33rd pick in the 2009 draft, O’Reilly has 39 goals and 68 assists in 236 games with Colorado since entering league.
He had 18 goals and 37 assists in 81 games last season.