Ryan O'Reilly had 18 goals and 55 points in 81 games last season. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
Ryan O'Reilly's contract standoff with the Colorado Avalanche appears to have come to a head.
For several weeks, Avalanche management denied rumors the 22-year-old center was being shopped, but on Tuesday it was reported the situation had changed.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post wrote it “appears a virtual certainty” O'Reilly will be dealt, while TSN's Darren Dreger cited sources claiming the Avalanche had been in trade talks with Eastern Conference teams. Dreger also reported a source saying the asking price was a roster player and a top prospect.
Several Eastern clubs should have serious interest in O'Reilly.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have lacked a true first-line center since Mats Sundin departed in 2008 and possess depth in young talent that would interest the Avalanche.
With Jason Spezza sidelined until May, the Ottawa Senators might have some interest. O'Reilly, however, would be an expensive long-term acquisition.
The Philadephia Flyers desperately need an offensive boost. GM Paul Holmgren said he didn't foresee any moves, but that doesn't mean he won't make one if the right opportunity presents itself.
If Holmgren pursues O'Reilly, he'll have to shed salary to sign him, as the Flyers are pressed for cap space.
The New York Rangers haven't received much offense from their centers beyond Brad Richards. Like the Leafs, they have depth in young talent to tempt the Avs.
But it could take time for O'Reilly to be dealt. Dater speculated it could even take until this summer or beyond until the Avalanche find the right deal.
The Winnipeg Jets were busy in the trade market on Wednesday, acquiring Eric Tangradi from Pittsburgh for a seventh round pick in 2013, then shipping Alex Ponikarovsky back to the New Jersey Devils for a seventh-rounder in 2013 and a fourth-rounder in 2014.
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff may not be finished, either. Only a dozen games into this season, there's concern in Winnipeg over the Jets’ lack of firepower.
Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun noted the Jets’ forward lines are as anaemic as they were a year ago. He believes if it weren't for the offensive contributions from their blueline, the club would be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
Friesen pointed out Kyle Wellwood, Alexander Burmistrov, Nik Antropov, Olli Jokinen and the now-departed Ponikarovsky had only 13 points combined through Winnipeg’s first 12 games.
Scoring star Evander Kane has gone goalless in his past seven games, though the increase in his penalty-killing minutes is one reason for the decline.
The addition of Tangradi could be an upgrade over Ponikarovsky, but he's not a proven NHL scorer.
Prior to Wednesday's trades, Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press speculated the need for more offense would force Cheveldayoff to use a defenseman as trade bait.
He suggested 23-year-old Paul Postma as their best trade candidate, citing his upside, skills, affordable salary ($550,000) and RFA status this summer.
Lawless believes Cheveldayoff would prefer to wait and see how his club performs with a healthy blueline before shopping a defenseman. Dustin Byfuglien has just returned from a lower-body injury and Zach Bogosian is expected back soon from wrist surgery.
Don't expect Byfuglien, Bogosian or Tobias Enstrom to be shopped. Lawless also doubts Mark Stuart would be available. He believes Ron Hainsey's value is as a playoff rental player, doubts Grant Clitsome would attract the right return and considers Zach Redmond “too much of an unknown.”
Ryan O'Reilly could also be of interest to Cheveldayoff, but the Avalanche's more pressing need is scoring depth.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).