The Colorado Avalanche had a wild couple of hours on Thursday.
Shortly before the puck dropped in Denver, Colorado’s opponent for the night, the Calgary Flames, made a bold move. The Flames signed Avalanche holdout Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year offer sheet, putting the pressure on Colorado to either let him go or match the offer.
But while the Flames were playing very good hockey in the first period, Colorado was discussing whether to match the offer to O’Reilly—even though the Avs had seven days to come to a final decision.
The Avs would match the Flames’ offer, signing O’Reilly to a two-year deal, and that must have lit a spark underneath the players because the momentum shifted toward Colorado. The Avs, who were down 3-0 after one, went on to defeat the Flames 5-4 for their second win over Calgary on the night.
But now that O’Reilly is back with the Avs—and cannot be traded until Feb. 28, 2014—who are the true winners and losers of the deal? Here’s my take on the situation.
Winner: Ryan O’Reilly, Forward
Throughout this entire process, there was one thing keeping Colorado from bringing O’Reilly back sooner: money. All of the negotiations were about money—how much Colorado was willing to give him compared to how much he wanted.
Colorado clearly didn’t want to sign O’Reilly to the lucrative contract he ended up getting. The Avs were forced into making a decision where they could either fork up the extra money or lose out on a potential superstar. Colorado figured it’d be better to pay more.
O’Reilly told Ontario radio station CJBK that he was quite pleased with the final result (h/t Adrian Dater of The Denver Post): "It was a big number. I didn’t really expect that. But it’s great. It’s what we wanted, and was worth it to wait this long. Now it’s strictly business now, as it was then—just perform on the ice."
It’s a little disappointing that O’Reilly was holding out for the money, but that’s the way some players are. Colorado desperately needs him in the lineup, and it’s a little surprising that the team waited so long. The Avs were nearly in the cellar of the Western Conference before, but now have the star power necessary to compete for a postseason berth.
Loser: Greg Sherman, General Manager
Greg Sherman is easily one of the worst general managers in the National Hockey League. It doesn’t appear that he cares about winning or about the future of the team.
Sure, he made a couple of good moves this offseason—signing P.A. Parenteau and John Mitchell—but that doesn’t make the countless bad moves disappear. But this battle with O’Reilly is the final straw. Sherman doesn’t deserve to be the general manager of the Avs anymore; he ruined his shot.
Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post agrees, saying that Colorado needs to make some changes:
Sherman might well end be the fall guy, when fingers of blame get pointed. The Avs, however, were built into champions under the astute guidance of Pierre Lacroix. Now, team management is lost and can’t find its way out of his shadow, even as Lacroix’s power and acumen wane.
Although the length and status of Sherman’s contract are unknown, writes Dater, he has to get the boot. There’s no way that he should be making hockey-related decisions going forward.
Colorado has a handful of talented prospects coming up through the system, and Sherman is only going to ruin it. If owner Stan Kroenke is smart, he’ll find himself and his team a new ringleader going into the 2013-14 season. If Kroenke decides otherwise, the Avs are in more trouble than I originally thought.
Winner: Gabriel Landeskog, Forward
It may seem a little weird that I’m deeming Gabriel Landeskog a winner here, but let me explain. Not only is the Colorado captain getting a top-notch forward back, he’s also going to be very rich in the near future because of O'Reilly.
Kiszla proposes the biggest question of them all: "When O’Reilly takes home $6.5 million next season, then how much is captain Gabriel Landeskog worth when his contract expires?"
Simply put: a lot.
Landeskog will become a restricted free agent after next season, and Colorado is going to have to empty its pockets to retain him. O’Reilly may have been the team’s leading scorer last season, but Landeskog is the better player.
Landeskog was last year’s Calder Trophy winner. O’Reilly has yet to win anything. Landeskog is the team captain. O’Reilly doesn’t have any letters on his uniform outside of the name spelled on his jersey. Landeskog hasn’t had the opportunity to yet, but I wouldn’t expect him to hold out over money.
The Colorado captain is making $3.575 million this year, and he’ll make the same next season. So what happens after that? How much will he get? The market can change before that time comes, but one can assume he’ll ask for at least what O’Reilly is making, for starters.