The (Ryan) O’Reilly Factor – Should The Senators Get Involved?


With the much publicized contentious negotiations that are (or more like are not) taking place between the Avalanche and the lone remaining high profile restricted free agent, Ryan O’Reilly, apparently at an impasse, there will no doubt be 29 other teams asking themselves the same questions – 1) Where would he fit on our roster and at what salary?; and 2) What are we willing to part with in order to get O’Reilly out of Colorado?

Mar 14, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O

First things first, the player himself.  O’Reilly is a young player (just turned 22 last week) who has 3 full seasons under his belt already, playing 236 NHL games.  The Avalanche apparently have offered him a similar deal to the 2 year, $7M contract signed by Matt Duchene last summer.  While rumours that the young centre has been holding out for around $5M per year have been denied by his agent, it could be a fact that he simply wants out of Colorado and he is using high contract demands to get his wish.  That is the ploy used by Kyle Turris to get out of Phoenix.

The difference is, while Turris had potential but hadn’t yet made his mark in Phoenix, O’Reilly has almost 40 goals and over 100 points to his name and had led his team in assists and points in 2011-12.  Turris was a part time bit player with fewer than 20 goals and 40 points when he held out.

So, what kind of player is O’Reilly?

He is essentially a rugged forward who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty while not taking an abnormal amount of penalties.  He would slot in nicely as a second line centre or could move to the wing. He is 6′, 200 lbs, and has been pretty durable, missing 10 games in 3 seasons.  His offensive output doubled last season over the previous two seasons, to a career high 55 points.

Now, what Salary does he command?

Well, he doesn’t have a ton of leverage right now.  As an RFA, all he can do is withhold his services, but really he is up against it.  Without arbitration rights, the Avalanche are in the driver’s seat.  Unless he can force them to trade him.  While the Avalanche want to toe the line much like the Canadiens did with P.K. Subban, the O’Reilly camp looks at the Jamie Benn contract (5 years, 26.25 M) as a comparable, and they are not wrong.  On the open market, O’Reilly would probably get between $4-5M on a long contract.  But alas, it is not an open market and barring an offer sheet out of left field, the options are sign, or sit.

What would Ottawa have to give up to get O’Reilly?

That is uncertain, but you have to imagine that it would take 2 quality assets (prospects/draft picks) to get him. He is young, a fairly proven commodity and if Colorado is going to part with him, they will expect quality in return.  Don’t expect to get him for an expiring contract on a middling player.  It would likely cost a Zibanejad or Silfverberg and a draft pick or even a couple of the young prospects (Ceci, Stone, Noesen, Puempel) and a high draft pick.  With the time and effort Bryan Murray has expended to build a quality farm system, don’t expect that he will part with those assets easily.

Should Ottawa Push Hard to Acquire O’Reilly?

That depends on how confident the Senators are in how they have projected Zibanejad and Silfverberg.  If they still project them at a high level, then no way, its not worth it.  Ottawa’s depth is down the middle when healthy, and player seem to be slotted into apropriate spots (again, when healthy)  O’Reilly isn’t going to come in and replace Jason Spezza‘s lost production, and to put those expectations on him at this point would be unfair, but the comparisons would be inevitable.

However, if the management is not satisfied with what they have seen from Zibanejad and Silfverberg, they could swap the known commodity (O’Reilly) for the unknown and untapped potential, along with a top draft pick.

Its a delicate game to play, and any trade that was made would have to be contingent on having agreed to an acceptable contract in terms of salary and term.  I have the feeling that while the Senators might kick the tires on O’Reilly, and might investigate what it would take to get him, they would not be willing to meet the Avalanche asking price.  Colorado has the leverage and are not imminently a playoff team, so they can afford to wait out their young star.  Eventually the pressure will get to him and he will sign, and that could be the point where a deal might be had, just like Turris last season.

I just don’t think Ottawa will be the eventual landing spot.