Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly is entering a contract year with the team, following a 2-year extension he signed in February of 2013. He will become a restricted free agent on July 1 unless resigned by the Avalanche before then. If O'Reilly is allowed to reach free agency, there would be very high demand for a player of his caliber.
Apparently, contract negotiations between O'Reilly and the Avalanche have not been going well, as the team has decided to take the negotiations to arbitration, meaning that someone else will be given authority to decide how the team and O'Reilly proceed from here. Unfortunately, this is not the first time there have been contract problems between O'Reilly and the Avalanche. During the strike-shortened season, O'Reilly held out hoping to be signed to a substantial extension. Eventually, he was offered one… by the Calgary Flames. That was the point at which Colorado's hand was forced, and they decided to match Calgary's offer in order to keep O'Reilly in an Avalanche uniform. Less than a year and a half later, there is again doubt as to whether O'Reilly will be staying in Colorado.
O'Reilly has been an important part of the Avalanche core since he was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft, one round after Matt Duchene. O'Reilly beat the odds and made the opening day roster for the Avalanche the same year he was drafted. This past season, he led the Avalanche with 28 goals, while finishing third in points with 64. He took only one minor penalty all season long, and is a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy at the upcoming NHL Awards. Clearly, he has gained some major leverage for his quest to hit paydirt. He would have even more leverage should he win the Lady Byng.
One of the downsides to having numerous budding stars is that when it comes time to extend them, there isn't enough money to go around under the salary cap. Colorado has to make sure they keep the contracts for their young stars manageable, and if they sign O'Reilly to a huge extension now, they may not have the means to extend the next star in line for a payday when the time comes. While it of course remains possible that O'Relly will remain with the Avalanche, there is a disconcerting uncertainty in the air.
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