Colorado Avalanche: Predicting Ryan O'Reillys New Contract

Kevin GoffContributor IJuly 14, 2012

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 04:  Ryan O'Reilly #37 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on during a break in the action against the Vancouver Canucks at the Pepsi Center on February 4, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Canucks defeated the Avalanche 3-2 in an overtime shoot out.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With yesterday's signing of Jamie McGinn, the Colorado Avalanche have just one more free agent left to tie up from their roster last season: Ryan O'Reilly.

Ryan O'Reilly had a breakout season for the Avalanche last season, scoring 55 points after producing 26 in each of his first two seasons.

With his sudden offensive output and steady ability to shut down opponent's top lines, O'Reilly has become a huge fan favorite in Colorado.

The question that has been running all over the Twitter-verse ever since the Stanley Cup Finals have ended is: "Why haven't the Avalanche signed Ryan O'Reilly yet?"

Well, initially the answer was pretty simple—the Avalanche started making signings of guys like Cody McLeod, Milan Hejduk and David Jones. 

These guys were all unrestricted free agents that the Avalanche wanted to take care of before July 1st came around.

Now that everybody else has been signed, fans still want to know...what is taking so long on O'Reilly?

Obviously the team wants him back, otherwise he wouldn't have been given a qualifying offer—similar to Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter. The issue that the Avalanche face comes with determining his value.

It's easy for us to say, "Look at the year O'Reilly had! He's the best player on the team, you need to lock him up for five years and pay that man!"

But look at it from Greg Sherman's perspective:

Yes, O'Reilly had a great season for the Avalanche this year, leading the team in scoring and assists while still providing solid defense, but this was a far different year than any of the ones before.

Obviously he's earned a raise, but you don't want to just throw money at a guy who only showed this kind of offensive production one of the three years he's been in the league. You also don't want to commit to a long period of paying a guy who hasn't yet shown that's what he will consistently do.

So saying that O'Reilly should get five years and up to $5 million a year isn't really big picture thinking with this, and Greg Sherman is a big picture guy.

O'Reilly will see a bump in money, but it won't be huge. As far as years go, Sherman will want to give O'Reilly the same kind of years that Matt Duchene and Jamie McGinn received.

Both players have two years to go out and prove that they deserve the bigger money with the longer term, and the same is likely to happen for O'Reilly.

The team wants him to play hard for the next two seasons and prove that his performance this year is the type of thing that the team can expect from him year in and year out.

The team will also want to guarantee that O'Reilly will still be a restricted free agent when his next contract ends so that they will continue to retain the same bargaining power with him that they currently have.

When he has established these things, then you can expect the big years and big money contract.

So my prediction is that Ryan O'Reilly's contract will be a two or three year one, in which he will be making about $3 million a year for his salary cap hit.