The contract dispute between the Colorado Avalanche and restricted free agent forward Ryan O'Reilly is becoming a bigger issue with each passing day as the team continues to struggle, and according to Adrian Dater of The Denver Post, a trade could be the end result of this stalemate.
There is absolutely no negotiating going on anymore between Ryan O’Reilly and the Avalanche. While the Avs were optimistic right after the lockout ended that they could sign O’Reilly and my sources said he would not be traded, things have changed and it appears a virtual certainty O’Reilly will be traded now... The only questions remaining are to which team and for which players/draft picks in return. Darren Dreger of TSN reported tonight the Avs are asking for a “roster player and a top prospect.” That sounds about right.
If O'Reilly is traded, the team that acquires him will have to re-sign him, and that could be an expensive decision if his demands are met, according to B.D. Gallof of WFAN.
With O'Reilly's future in Colorado uncertain, let's look at four teams on the playoff bubble that should try to acquire the star forward.
The Canadiens need a two-way center like O'Reilly who can back-check well, impact games physically and kill penalties.
Head coach Michel Therrien has plenty of offensive skill down the middle, but he doesn't have a top-tier defensive center that can shut down opposing teams' best forwards.
Montreal's penalty kill ranks 17th in the league and the team has allowed four power-play goals in its last four games. The Canadiens have also allowed a power-play goal in nine of their 12 games this season.
Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenuk are the only two centers on the Montreal roster that have scored more than five points this season. O'Reillly's playmaking ability, and his face-off skill would be valuable additions to a Canadiens team that ranks 10th in goals scored and 28th in face-off percentage.
Which team needs O'Reilly the most?
Acquiring O'Reilly would give Montreal a young and talented center that is versatile enough to play on the first, second or third line regardless if he's in a scoring or defensive role. Adding more scoring depth should be a priority for general manager Marc Bergevin before the April 3 trade deadline.
Since the Avalanche would be giving up a quality center in O'Reilly if he's traded, expect Colorado to want a good young center to be part of any deal.
Montreal could offer 23-year-old center Lars Eller, who has tremendous upside offensively, as well as a top-tier defensive prospect such as Nathan Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi.
The Sabres got tougher in the summer by adding gritty forwards John Scott and Steve Ott, but the result of this offseason strategy has been a lack of scoring and serious power-play concerns.
O'Reilly would be the perfect addition to the Sabres because he is a physical forward who plays well defensively and can also score 55-plus points in a full 82-game season. His combination of grit and offensive skill is exactly what head coach Lindy Ruff needs in his lineup.
The Sabres also rank 30th in face-off percentage, so a player like O'Reilly who can win important defensive zone face-offs would be a huge upgrade to their roster.
Top-six centers Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis have been productive offensively this season with 12 and 10 points, respectively, but veteran forward Steve Ott and rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko have combined for just two goals and a total of nine points.
Buffalo won't compete for a playoff spot this season unless they make a deal to improve the team's scoring depth down the middle, and since O'Reilly would address this weakness and add some more toughness to the roster, he should be the top trade target for general manager Darcy Reiger.
Top prospects Zemgus Girgensons (center), Joel Armia (left wing) and Brayden McNabb (defenseman) are three talented young players that the Sabres could offer the Avalanche for O'Reilly. All three have the potential to be very good NHL players.
The Oilers need more scoring depth at center to remain in the playoff race until the end of the season. Sam Gagner is having a phenomenal year with a team-leading 13 points (four goals, nine assists), but he's the only center on the Edmonton roster with more than six points thus far.
Third-line center Shawn Horcoff is still not close to returning from a hand injury, and young star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still hasn't scored his first goal of the year through 12 games.
Edmonton ranks 27th in goals scored this season, which is a major surprise given their abundance of high-end offensive talent.
Head coach Ralph Kreuger could move star forward Taylor Hall to center in an attempt to rejuvenate his offense, but that isn't an ideal situation because the 21-year-old is best suited on the wing and isn't good on face-offs.
O'Reilly would be a great young player for the Oilers to build around, and he would immediately become the team's best defensive forward if added to the roster. His two-way ability is something that the Oilers lack in their top-six forward group.
The challenge for Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini would be acquiring O'Reilly without giving up a valuable piece of his team's young core of stars.
Veteran winger Ales Hemsky (who has one year at $5 million remaining on his contract) and a top prospect such as defenseman Oscar Klefbom or center Tyler Pitlick might be enough to make a trade with Colorado for O'Reilly.
The Minnesota Wild have lost seven of their last 11 games, and it's clear that the they will be among the handful of teams battling for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference this season.
The Wild's top center prospects who have made their NHL debuts this season (Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund) aren't producing at the rate that the team expected. This is one reason why Minnesota is ranked 29th in goals scored and has failed to score multiple goals in eight of its 13 games.
To make the playoffs, Minnesota must acquire a center like O'Reilly who can excel in a playmaking role, give the team more scoring depth and add some skill to the power-play (ranked 20th in NHL). From a defensive standpoint, O'Reilly would be a huge help to the Wild, especially when you consider the fact that he led the NHL in takeaways (101) last season.
Zach Parise and Dany Heatley are the Wild's only forwards with more than two goals this season, and captain Mikko Koivu is the only center on the team with multiple goals scored and more than six points.
Should the Wild include Coyle or Granlund in any possible trade for O'Reilly?
The Wild need to make some kind of trade for a top-six forward or they will continue to fall further down the standings.
Top prospects such as Zack Phillips (center), Johan Larsson (center) and Jonas Brodin (defenseman) could be used in a potential trade, but it's hard to imagine the Avalanche not asking for Coyle or Granlund in a deal involving O'Reilly.
This franchise has a lot of young talent, but will ownership be patient enough to let the team's young players develop after spending a combined $276 million to sign superstars Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in the summer?
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.