As the Colorado Avalanche struggle near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, they are becoming the subject of trade chatter among pundits and bloggers. The Avalanche are once again among the NHL's worst defensive teams, fuelling speculation they could move one of their young forwards for blueline help.
In recent days center Ryan O'Reilly's name has surfaced as a possible trade candidate. Former Denver Post columnist Adrian Dater claims the 23-year-old is being offered around for a defenseman, citing Florida, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal as pondering the possibility.
ESPN.com's Craig Custance recently made mention of a rumored O'Reilly-for-Keith Yandle swap with the Arizona Coyotes. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman notes O'Reilly, who has a history of contentious contract negotiations with the Avs, will be eligible for free agency again in 2016. NBC Sports' Jason Brough cites the Avalanche's depth in young talented forwards, suggesting it's not outrageous to believe O'Reilly might be moved for help on the back end.
With the Avalanche's playoff hopes growing slimmer by the day it's understandable why there's talk of O'Reilly being shopped for a blueliner. Management could be quietly gauging his trade value to determine if he'll land a quality return. However, unless they get a sweetheart offer there's no certainty they'll move O'Reilly, or any of their young forwards, for defensive help this season.
O'Reilly's contract history aside, he's the Avalanche's most versatile and disciplined forward. He can play center or left wing and possesses a solid two-way game. The 2014 Lady Byng Trophy winner also doesn't take costly penalties. He's not the type of player a team easily gives up in a trade.
Avalanche management shouldn't pressure to move O'Reilly this season, especially if they fall out of the playoff chase in the coming weeks. Their odds of getting a better return improve in the off-season, when there are more teams with available cap space willing to talk trade.
As tempting as O'Reilly is for interested teams, his contract status could prove a potential deal killer. He's currently in the first year of a two-year deal at an annual cap hit of $6 million, so he'll have to be re-signed before his UFA eligibility in July 2016.
It could prove an expensive undertaking, likely well above $7-million per season on a long-term extension if contract talks begin at the end of this season, possibly more if talks are left until the end of 2015-16. While fans and some pundits can argue he's not worth that much, history has shown time and again general managers easily succumb to auction fever on the opening day of free agency. O'Reilly won't have any difficulty landing a lucrative deal.
Any team acquiring O'Reilly must be prepared to shell out big bucks if they hope to keep him off the free-agent market in 2016.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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