The Colorado Avalanche and restricted free agent forward Ryan O'Reilly are poised to sort out their ongoing salary dispute at a club-elected salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
The NHL's salary arbitration process, outlined at length here, requires that the two sides exchange briefs no less than 48 hours before the start of their scheduled hearing. On Monday, the Avalanche and O'Reilly's camp made the exchange, and Ken Campbell of The Hockey News is reporting that O'Reilly's camp has elected a one-year term for the potential award and is seeking a $6.75 million salary.
The Avalanche's counter is the full cutback amount of $5.525 million, which is the maximum salary reduction they can seek at a club-elected salary arbitration hearing, per Article 12.3(a)(ii) of the 2013 NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement.
The election of a one-year term is particularly interesting in this case, because the 23-year-old O'Reilly has already accrued five years of professional experience, and a two-year award would've walked him to unrestricted free agency at the age of 25. It seems probable that the uncertainty of playing for two years under an imposed contract outweighed the potential benefits of hitting unrestricted free agency at an unprecedentedly tender age.
Also, the Avalanche will never be able to take O'Reilly to club-elected arbitration again, which would strengthen his negotiating hand a year from now.
As for the dollar amount being proposed by both sides, $5.525 isn't an unreasonable figure to offer an excellent two-way center like O'Reilly, it's just that the Avalanche's decision to risk further straining their relationship with a talented 23-year-old forward over less than $1 million seems odd and unduly spend-thrift.
On the other hand, it's hard not to get a bit of sticker shock looking over O'Reilly's ask. A $6.75 million salary would make O'Reilly the 24th highest paid forward in the league next season. In terms of group 2 restricted free agents who've signed contracts recently, a $6.75 million salary would eclipse the salaries set to be earned by star players like Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner, Tyler Seguin, Evander Kane and Bobby Ryan next season.