While the spiraling negotiations between the NHLPA and the NHL have taken up most of the headlines, the other thing primarily occupying Avalanche fans minds is Ryan O’Reilly’s contract status.
In an effort to avoid thinking about the expiring CBA, I decided to do some research. All in all, there are 11 RFAs (who spent 50 or more games in the NHL last year) who have yet to come to terms with their teams. Six of them are forwards. I thought I would compare their numbers with those of O’Reilly.
Justin Abdelkader-Abdelkader is a Detroit Red Wing. He played in 81 games, scoring 8 goals and 14 assists. He’s an improving player, but he has yet to put up huge numbers in the NHL.
Jamie Benn- Last year the Dallas Star became a star league wide. He earned a birth in the All Star Game. Benn played in 71 games, scoring 26 goals and 37 assists.
Tyler Ennis- The mite-sized Buffalo forward only played in 48 games this season, however he did put up 34 points (15 goals).
Evander Kane-Drafted fourth overall in 2009 directly behind Matt Duchene, Evander Kane played his strongest season this year. In 74 games he scored 30 goals and 27 assists. There are some rumors that Kane wants out of Winnipeg, but for now the Jets hold his card.
Matt Martin-Martin plays for the Islanders. He played 80 games last season, and scored seven goals and seven assists. I don’t know much about him, but based on these numbers, I would say he’s a role player, probably a glue guy.
Ryan O’Reilly- O’Reilly scored 55 points last year, while racking up more takeaways than any other player in the league. His 18 goals were fifth on the team overall.
Looking at these players, I would say that O’Reilly, Kane, Benn, and Ennis are all pretty important pieces to their teams. While I want O’Reilly to be signed as soon as possible, I personally feel better seeing some other big players have yet to come to terms with their teams. And while Kane may want to get out of Winnipeg, O’Reilly, Benn, and Ennis have all expressed their desire to remain with their current teams.
I tend to think that the Avalanche are going to wait to see how the CBA situation pans out before signing O’Reilly (feel free to prove me wrong, Mr. Sherman). While other teams have taken to signing players to lengthy, expensive contracts and extensions (in direct contrast to what they want from the new CBA, but I digress), the Avalanche are not that team. Despite the monetary value of Kroenke and his family, the team still spends very little when compared to other NHL teams. While they have hidden behind the words “rebuild” and “young” the past few years, they are running out of excuses. This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems as though the Avalanche are waiting for the owners to get what they want out of the CBA, and then hoping to use that as leverage to lower the value of O’Reilly’s contract.
I feel very confident that O’Reilly will be signed by the Avalanche, and play in the upcoming season, no matter how short it is. I just don’t think he’ll be signed before the 15th of September, while the current CBA is still effective.