would like to rebuild around center Ryan O'Reilly
, but can afford to wait him out on a new contract. (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
You have to wonder if today is the day that Ryan O'Reilly can finally read the writing on the wall.
If not, he might want to have someone read it to him.
In the wake of Monday night's P.K. Subban deal, the 21-year-old restricted free agent and erstwhile KHL star is now the last remaining big-name player without a contract for this season.
O'Reilly led the Avalanche in scoring last season -- albeit with just 55 points - -and brings a package of heart and skill that the franchise wants to rebuild around. After making $900,000 on the last year of his entry-level deal, according to capgeek.com, all agree that he is due a hefty raise.
And he'll get one.
But if he held out any hope of swinging $5 million a year from the Avs, well, that grandiose dream died Monday night under the pitiless boot heel of Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin.
If we've learned anything during the last couple weeks from the signings of RFAs like Subban and Michael Del Zotto, it's that a certain sense of order has been restored in the wake of the new CBA. The days of players breaking the bank with their second deal may not be gone, but they'll be scarcer than a glowing review for Movie 43.
Bridge contracts -- two- or three-year pacts that offer a fair raise based on performance rather than long-term potential -- are back in vogue, thanks to the hard lines held by GMs like Bergevin and New York's Glen Sather, who took full advantage of the protections offered them by the CBA. That hard-fought document gave them control over their own RFAs and they used it. Even Jamie Benn's deal (five-years, $26.25 million) was evidence of a club signing a deal dictated by its own tolerance level, rather than the pre-lockout contracts signed by Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and the like.
And while Colorado's poor start may seem to swing leverage in O'Reilly's favor, that would be a gross misread of GM Greg Sherman's position. The Avalanche would like to win this year, but they don't have to. They have money to spend under the cap, but they don't have to spend it.
Sherman knows what O'Reilly is worth to him -- something in the neighborhood of $3.5 million per season -- and that's what he's willing to pay. The Subban and Del Zotta deals prove there's no reason for him to budge from that. So O'Reilly can sit the rest of the year and hope that a trade (unlikely) or an offer sheet (unlikelier) is on the horizon. Or he can come to grips with the new market reality and get a deal done.
Expect the latter. And soon.