With star center Ryan O'Reilly set to go to arbitration Wednesday, he and the Colorado Avalanche came to terms on a new contract that will conceivably keep O'Reilly in Denver for the next two seasons, according to the team's official website:
The Colorado Avalanche announced today that the team has signed forward Ryan O'Reilly to a two-year contract through the 2015-16 season, avoiding arbitration.
'We are pleased to have Ryan under contract,' said Avalanche Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic. 'We are looking at the upcoming training camp and season with a lot of excitement.'
According to TSN, the two-year contract is worth an annual cap hit of $6 million as it will pay O'Reilly $5.8 million in 2014-15 and $6.2 million in 2015-16.
O'Reilly and the Avs have struggled to work out a long-term deal in recent years. The 23-year-old forward has been a key two-way center for Colorado, though, and he is coming off the best offensive season of his career after notching 28 goals and 36 assists in 2013-14.
He even won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player, which is no small feat for a player who excels defensively.
The two-year contract comes as somewhat of a surprise considering the fact that O'Reilly was looking for a one-year contract approaching $7 million, per Adrian Dater of The Denver Post:
O'Reilly seeks $6.75 million from arbitrator vs. Avs http://t.co/8Th0hSN9ZX— Adrian Dater (@adater) July 21, 2014
O'Reilly apparently decided that an extra year of security was worth a drop in asking price. O'Reilly can now become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the contract, while the Avs have an extra year to negotiate something more permanent.
While O'Reilly expressed a desire to remain in Colorado leading up to the contract negotiations, he also seemed to intimate that he wasn't necessarily committed to signing a long-term deal with the Avs, per Dater.
"I want to be here next year. I want to be here and try to win again," O'Reilly said. "I love (Patrick Roy) as a coach, and the guys on the team are unbelievable. Obviously, I want to be here, but it's just the business side that has to happen. ... I'm just going to take it year to year and try to win a Cup."
O'Reilly will have an opportunity to pursue a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche during the upcoming season, but his future is murky beyond that. He is technically under contract for 2015-16 as well, but Daniel Friedman of WFAN isn't convinced that he will be with the Avs for the duration of it:
The question is, where will Ryan O'Reilly be playing by the time his new contract expires?— Daniel Friedman (@DFriedmanOnNYI) July 23, 2014
Colorado could very well opt to trade O'Reilly prior to or during the 2015-16 campaign if no progress is made on the front of a more permanent contract.
Who benefits most from this contract?
The two sides have been engaged in a game of cat and mouse for the past few years, and this new contract is a Band-Aid more than a solution. Even so, Avalanche fans have to be thrilled that O'Reilly will be with the team next season at the very least.
Colorado is coming off a season in which it won the Western Conference's Central Division with 112 points. It fell to the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs, but the Avalanche have plenty of young and dynamic talent that will continue to grow.
Keeping O'Reilly is huge in terms of being an elite team, but there is now a sense of urgency since O'Reilly is far from secured moving forward.
The Avalanche will definitely be Stanley Cup contenders during the upcoming season; however, anything beyond that is up in the thin Rocky Mountain air.
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