by PuckStopsHere on 02/28/13 at 10:21 PM ET
The last significant free agent to sign this season is Ryan O'Reilly. He was a restricted free agent this summer. He was unable to come to a deal with the Colorado Avalanche. After a 55 point third NHL season at age 21, he looked poised to become a star in the NHL. Potentially he could be worth a lot to his team but that potential is yet to be fully realized in the NHL. Colorado balked at paying for him. As a result he has held out for the first 18 games of the season.
Today the Calgary Flames have signed him to a two-year offer sheet. O'Reilly gets a $2.5 million signing bonus and $1 million in salary for the remainder of the season. He gets $6.5 million next season. This gives him a $5 million salary cap hit and it forces his team to qualify his contract at $6.5 million in order to keep his rights after the contract expires. It is a worse deal than those that Colorado had balked upon leading to his holdout.
If Colorado chooses not to match the offer they will get a first and a third round draft pick in compensation. Unless Calgary is poised to win the draft lottery this season, that is a poor price to pay for O'Reilly. Calgary would get him cheap in terms of hockey asset value.
UPDATE: As I was spellchecking this article and publishing it, the Avalanche announced they are matching the offer sheet. As I suggest in the article they had no other logical choice.
I think Colorado has no logical option other than to match the deal. General Manager Greg Sherman is in a bad place. He has made a mistake in this affair. It was a poor choice to not re-sign O'Reilly when they could have had him at a lower price. It would be an even worse choice to let him go in exchange for a couple lottery tickets that might one day be worth Ryan O'Reilly, but in most cases never comes close.
Sherman was hired to be Colorado GM with questionable credentials. He has done nothing to show that he is competent at his job. His team is currently second last in the West Conference.
Jay Feaster in Calgary is not doing much better. The Flames have one more point than Colorado does. However this is a good move. Landing a player of Ryan O'Reilly's talent could make a significant difference to the Flames. He is young and talented. Calgary has the salary cap space to afford him. The price of a first and third round draft pick is not too big - O'Reilly should be worth more than that. In all likelihood they will not get him. Colorado will match the offer. Eating into a divisional rival's salary cap space is not a bad thing - so even the worst case is not too bad. Colorado has screwed up to wind up in this situation.
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