Report: Avalanche's O'Reilly elects 1-year term, seeking $6.75 million salary in arbitration

Jul 21, 9:45 AM

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.

Jul 23, 1:04 PM

Joe Sakic on Ryan O'Reilly's deal: 'He's a very valuable player to us and we want him long term'

Jul 23, 1:04 PM

The Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O'Reilly's camp waited until the 11th hour before coming to their senses and reaching an accord on a two-year contract worth $12 million. The buzzer-beating deal allowed both sides to avoid going through with their scheduled club-elected salary arbitration hearing on Wednesday morning in Toronto.

"We were right outside the door, ready to do this," Colorado Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic told Adrian Dater of the Denver Post.

"When we shook hands, I think we were both very happy I know the Colorado Avalanche is very happy," Sakic said. "He's a very valuable player to us and we want him long term. That (type of contract) hasn't happened yet, but we'll keep working at it and see what happens."

On the subject of perceived rancor between the two sides in this particular negotiation, Sakic characterized that as media-generated and speculative.

"There was never any animosity between us this whole time," said Sakic of the negotiations between the Avalanche and O'Reilly. "Any of the perceived animosity came from the outside."

At least some of that perceived animosity comes from comments made by O'Reilly's agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports Agency during this process. Or Joe Sakic's somewhat testy public response to those comments. 

Also comments made by O'Reilly's father during the last round of negotiations a couple of years ago. Or perhaps that perception stems from O'Reilly's having signed an offer sheet with the Calgary Flames in 2013...

Perception is an afterthought for the moment, because this saga is over. At least for a couple of years. 

Picking through the rubble, it seems like a win in the short term for the Avalanche, who locked up O'Reilly for two more seasons at a salary figure that is lower than what O'Reilly took home in actual salary for the 2013-14 NHL season. 

In the long term though, O'Reilly could be the big beneficiary of this two-year deal. The 23-year-old center led the Avalanche in scoring a year ago and took home a major NHL award (the Lady Byng), and with this new two-year contract is poised to hit unrestricted free agency at the age of 25. O'Reilly seems likely to be the most heavily sought after player on the open market in the summer of 2016, barring a lucrative extension before then. 

Jul 23, 10:05 AM

Avalanche, O'Reilly avoid arbitration; agree to 2-year, $12-million contract

Jul 23, 10:05 AM

The Colorado Avalanche avoided arbitration with center Ryan O'Reilly, the two sides agreeing to a two-year contract worth $12 million, according to a report from TSN's Darren Dreger. The deal will pay O'Reilly $5.8 million next season and $6.2 million during in 2015-16, and will carry an annual averaged value of $6 million. 

The Avalanche were poised to argue to an arbitrator that O'Reilly - coming off a 64-point, Lady Byng Trophy-winning season despite logging tough minutes against top competition - should have his salary cut by 15 percent. So this settlement allows O'Reilly and the club to avoid what would have been an unusually acrimonious hearing.

O'Reilly, 23, has already accrued five seasons of professional experience in his NHL career, so this two-year contract will take him through to unrestricted free agency at the age of 25. 

"We are pleased to have Ryan under contract," said Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic in a team release. "We are looking at the upcoming training camp and season with a lot of excitement."

O'Reilly's teammates seem similarly excited:

Feature photo courtesy of James Guillory / USA TODAY Sports

Jul 10, 11:44 PM

Is a trade in Ryan O'Reilly's future?

Jul 10, 11:44 PM

Mired in a second contract dispute, the relationship between Ryan O'Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche could not be colder.

It's gotten so bad that even if the Avalanche ink O'Reilly for two years as a result of their July 23 arbitration hearing, he is likely gone the moment he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the deal.

According to Denver Post columnist Adrian Dater, Colorado's best chance to salvage some value from the O'Reilly mess is to trade him, and soon. Dater argues that any team receiving him in a trade will want some assurance he will stick around, which becomes less of a certainty the closer he gets to free agency.

Perhaps there's a team with the assets to pry O'Reilly away from the Avalanche in a trade. One team that comes to mind is the Edmonton Oilers - a franchise awash in youth and talent but missing the solid foundation of defensive responsibility required to win consistently in the NHL.

Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal speculates O'Reilly might be available for a package including a young roster player like Jordan Eberle, David Perron or 2012 first-overall pick Nail Yakupov and a defenseman like Justin Schultz.

Perhaps a draft pick or another prospect in lieu of Schultz would be necessary to form a package enticing enough for Colorado to consider it. A pair of players and a first-round pick would compare nicely to the package the Anaheim Ducks exchanged for Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler earlier in the offseason.

No matter what happens, it seems highly unlikely O'Reilly will stay with the Avalanche beyond the start of his unrestricted free agency in 2016. Until then, the manner in which he leaves will be up to Colorado.

Feature photo courtesy of James Guillory / USA TODAY Sports

Jul 10, 3:01 PM

Report: Contract talks between Avalanche and O'Reilly stall; likely headed to arbitration

Jul 10, 3:01 PM

Contract talks between the Colorado Avalanche and restricted free agent winger Ryan O'Reilly have reportedly stalled, and it looks as though the two sides are headed to arbitration, according to The Denver Posts' Adrian Dater

Since the Avalanche chose to take O'Reilly to arbitration, the 23-year-old will have the luxury of choosing between a one-year or two-year deal following the arbiter's decision.

O'Reilly, who led the Avalanche in goals with 28 last season, has a checkered history with the organization, playing a pair of games in the KHL after the start of the lockout-shortened campaign in 2013 when the two sides couldn't come to a contract agreement.

Following his holdout in the KHL, O'Reilly signed a two-year, $10-million offer sheet with the Calgary Flames, a deal the Avalanche matched almost immediately.

Jul 4, 1:19 PM

Sakic: Avalanche remain focused on signing Ryan O'Reilly

Jul 4, 1:19 PM

Although the Colorado Avalanche and forward Ryan O'Reilly are set to go-head-to-head in an upcoming arbitration hearing, Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic remains focused on signing the 23-year-old to a long term deal.

"We're going to focus on getting Ryan signed," Sakic told The Denver Post's Adrian Dater. "We want Ryan to be here, and be here a long time. Now that we're done with the draft and free agency, we'll be getting in contact with (Pat Morris, his agent)."

O'Reilly has a strained relationship with his club, playing a pair of games in the KHL after the start of the 2013 season when the two sides couldn't come to a contract agreement. Following the KHL fiasco, O'Reilly signed a two-year, $10-million offer sheet with the Calgary Flames, a deal the Avalanche immediately matched.

In 80 games last season, the 2013-14 Lady Byng Trophy winner notched 28 goals and 64 points while only spending two minutes in the sin bin.

Jun 23, 9:31 PM

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy not worried about arbitration with O'Reilly

Jun 23, 9:31 PM

The Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O'Reilly's agent have not met to discuss a new contract for the restricted free-agent, but head coach Patrick Roy isn't in distress.

He told Adrian Dater of the Denver Post he knows what it's like to be in negotiations and knows everything will work out in the end.

I'll tell you why: Joe and I were players, and we also had to be businessmen. At this time of the year, it's no different for other teams. It's an unpleasant time. It's a negotiation, and Ryan has to do what he thinks is the best... From a coaching perspective, I don't see it as a problem.

O'Reilly, who is attending the NHL awards in Las Vegas, told Dater, "I've just got to leave the business for the business (people). It'll be interesting to see what happens. All I can do, myself, is focus on myself and training for next year and let my agent take care of that."

In 80 games played, O'Reilly tallied 64 points and only two penalty minutes. He is nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy.

Jun 23, 8:08 PM

Avalanche, O'Reilly have not begun talks since arbitration filing

Jun 23, 8:08 PM

Although Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly made it clear many times he wants to remain with the team, there have been not talks between the sides since the team filed for arbitration.

O'Reilly is a restricted free-agent this summer, and while the two sides haven't spoken, the Avalanche may be concerned with signing pending free-agent Paul Stastny.

Jun 23, 4:53 PM

O'Reilly: 'There's no question I want to be in Colorado next year'

Jun 23, 4:53 PM

The Colorado Avalanche and center Ryan O'Reilly are in the midst of contract negotiations as the team elected for arbitration against the center last week.

O'Reilly went through tough negotiations in 2012 when he settled on a two-year, $10-million contract which now leaves him a restricted free-agent. He has no plans on leaving the team, as he told Dan Rosen Monday.

Of course, O'Reilly's agent is trying to get the best deal for his client, but the banter back and forth so far has been anything but reassuring a deal will get done soon.

Feature photo courtesy of James Guillory / USA TODAY Sports

Jun 19, 3:52 PM

Joe Sakic: 'Our intention is to have (O'Reilly) a Colorado Avalanche for a long time'

Jun 19, 3:52 PM

In the midst of another potentially contentious contract negotiation between the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O'Reilly, team president Jos Sakic affirmed the organization's desire to keep the talented, two-way center in the mix for the foreseeable future.

Easier said than done however.

O'Reilly, a soon-to-be restricted free agent, is coming off a backloaded two-year deal that saw him earn $6.5-million in 2013-14, a valuation that Colorado doesn't see as a viable starting point in terms of negotiating.

Sakic added "We just have a different point of view on where the starting point is", signaling the fact that keeping O'Reilly around long-term may be a difficult process, no matter how good management's intentions may be.

Jun 17, 6:38 PM

O'Reilly's agent unhappy about Avalanche filing for arbitration

Jun 17, 6:38 PM

The Colorado Avalanche and star forward Ryan O'Reilly are poised for another acrimonious round of contract negotiations, it would appear.

On Tuesday afternoon, O'Reilly's agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports Management Agency appeared on Sportsnet's "Hockey Central at Noon" show and blasted the Avalanche's decision to file for team-elected arbitration.

"We had some warning that the arb might be taken advantage of. It’s within the CBA. Ryan understands that," Morris said per Adrian Dater of the Denver Post. "He also understands that it’s unique, that no player has been arbed for a pay cut that is of his stature."

There's some critical background to wade through here. In January of 2013, O'Reilly - who remained in contract limbo throughout the 2013 NHL lockout - signed a toxic, two-year, $10 million offer sheet with the Calgary Flames. 

The Flames' offer sheet was designed to dissuade the Avalanche from matching, which was accomplished by "backloading" the deal significantly. O'Reilly made $3.5 million for the 2012-13 season and made $6.5 million on the second, just completed, year of his contract. As result of this backloaded contract structure, the Avalanche would have to extend O'Reilly a mammoth $6.5 million qualifying offer just to retain his RFA rights.

By electing arbitration instead, the Avalanche can take advantage of the right to contest the amount he's otherwise entitled to per the terms of his qualifying offer. From article 12.3(a)(ii) of the 2013 NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement:

In any salary arbitration that takes place pursuant to this section 12.3(a), the Salary Arbitrator may not award the Player a Paragraph 1 Salary that is less than eight-five (85) percent of the aggregate sum of Player's Paragraph 1 Salary plus Signing, Reporting and Roster Bonuses in the final League Year of his most recent SPC.

If the Avalanche win their arbitration hearing, they could reduce O'Reilly's salary for next season to as low $5.525 million (or 85% of the sum of his "Paragraph 1 salary"). They can also prevent him from receiving a qualifying offer from another team this summer, with the exception of a short window between July 1 and July 5. 

The cost of taking advantage of team-elected arbitration, however, is that you run the risk upsetting the excellent young player whom you're negotiating with. Based on Morris' comments, that sure seems to have occurred in O'Reilly's case:

Ryan is unrestricted in two years, and under the model now, given that Colorado has arbed him, short-term looks like what the future is for Ryan going forward, possibly year to year or for the next two years….some people might look a little sideways that a team has done that to a special player, but they certainly have the business right to do that and Ryan is mature, but there’s a history a little bit on the previous contract and Ryan is a stubborn young man.

If this case does go to arbitration then O'Reilly's camp can elect a one- or two-year term to the arbiters award, which will be binding for both sides. Morris' comments suggest that O'Reilly's camp may select a one-year deal, in which case this cycle will repeat itself again next season, but the Avalanche will be unable to file for arbitration again. 

The other scenario: O'Reilly's side can elect a two-year award, and the Avalanche will have essentially walked the versatile 23-year-old forward right into early unrestricted free agency. Either scenario is fraught with risk for the notoriously spend-thrift Avalanche.

Jun 15, 6:20 PM

Avalanche file club-elected salary arbitration on Ryan O'Reilly

Jun 15, 6:20 PM

The NHL's deadline to file club-elected arbitration against its players was Sunday at 5 p.m. ET and the Colorado Avalanche have filed against forward Ryan O'Reilly.

O'Reilly played out his last season of a two-year deal worth $3.5-million last season and $6.5-million this past season. If the Avalanche want to keep his rights as an unrestricted free-agent, they will have to offer him a $6.5-million contract.

He can also choose to walk away from the offer decided by the arbitrator when the hearing takes place in late July. If O'Reilly walks, he will be pursued by many interested teams.

Other teams can also file an offer sheet between July 1st and 5th on O'Reilly which was previously not allowed under the old CBA.

Through 80 games with the Avalanche, O'Reilly scored 64 points and only took two penalty minutes.

Jun 15, 5:29 PM

Report: Avalanche may file club-elected salary arbitration on Ryan O'Reilly

Jun 15, 5:29 PM

The Colorado Avalanche are weaving in and out of NHL 'circles' as a team that 'has or will' file club-elected salary arbitration on forward Ryan O'Reilly.

Two options for the Avalanche are to negotiate a long-term deal, or take the arbitration route which is often an awkward process between team and player.

O'Reilly could chose to walk away from the organization if he was awarded less than $6.5-million by an arbitrator.

The NHL's arbitration period begins in late July.