Quick question: what the heck are the Avalanche doing with Ryan O’Reilly?

Adam Proteau
Ryan O'Reilly (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche are coming off a season that gave their fans legitimate hope the team could return to its heyday as one of the NHL’s powerhouse franchises. But their bizarre treatment of center Ryan O’Reilly is casting a shadow over some of that success. Indeed, their ongoing dealings with O’Reilly are quickly becoming a textbook case of how to alienate young talent and ensure they depart at their first opportunity.

The details of the arbitration case between the Avs and O’Reilly – first reported Monday by THN’s Ken Campbell – are troubling: O’Reilly is asking for $6.75 million on a one-year contract, but the team is offering a $5.525 million salary. That’s right, the Avs’ leading goal-scorer last season (who set personal bests on offense with 28 goals and 64 points in 80 games) and one of the NHL’s more highly-regarded young two-way players is being asked to take a 15 percent pay cut (the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement) at a time when the salary cap continues to rise and when Colorado has already lost one of its other talented centers (Paul Stastny) for nothing.

Of course, in every arbitration case, the team comes in with a lower number than they’re likely willing to settle for, and the player does the same on the higher end. The Avalanche would argue O’Reilly’s last contract had an average annual value of $5 million per season, meaning their proposal would be a raise of sorts. But that’s spin. The reality is, when the Avs matched the offer sheet the 23-year-old signed (for two years and $10-million) with the Calgary Flames after the 2012-13 lockout ended, O’Reilly became a $6.5-million-per-season player for them in the final year of that deal. The Avalanche might not have liked it – and clearly, they don’t value O’Reilly’s skills the way Calgary did – but by retaining the asset, they had to know what it would mean to now ask O’Reilly to take a haircut down the line, especially when he’s come as advertised and continued to improve. Ostensibly, you’re telling him that, no matter what he did last season, or what he’ll continue to do for them in the years to come, they see him at a certain financial slot. Read more

Free Agent Frenzy could be Free Agent Fizzle in 2015

Ken Campbell
Fleury

With the unrestricted free agent market for this summer pretty much picked clean, it’s time to start looking toward 2015. And if you’re doing that, you might be disappointed, since the best free agent out there next summer might be Mike Babcock.

Yes, there’s the likes of Jason Spezza and David Krejci, along with Derick Brassard and Marc-Andre Fleury, but chances are much of the top talent will not even see the calendar turn to July 1 before re-signing with their current teams. Chances are, the Dallas Stars didn’t trade for Spezza only to lose him after one season, so there will be a full-court press to sign him. And the Boston Bruins, for all their cap woes, will probably do everything they can to keep their playmaking center in Krejci. Read more

Long-term deals great if you give them to the right players

Doughty

At one point during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement during the 2012 lockout, a juncture during which things weren’t looking particularly good, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly outlined the league’s insistence on limiting contracts to five years and called it, “the hill we will die on.”

Everyone knows you never end a sentence in a preposition – the correct way to say it would have been, “It’s the hill on which we will die” – and you don’t make extreme statements during negotiations that you’re going to later have to retract. The NHL did not get its five-year contract limit and it didn’t die on any hill. Read more

Union attempt great news for players, bad for operators

Ken Campbell
Mem Cup

The men who run major junior hockey have had it their way for decades and even though the involvement of Canada’s largest private-sector union in an effort to protect the best teenage hockey players in the world has raised a host of red flags, these guys had better continue taking notice.

News that Unifor, a 300,000-member behemoth that represents workers in trades ranging from auto assembly to the media, was getting involved in a potential CHL players’ union is not good news for the Canadian Hockey League any way you look at it. Yes, its leader Jerry Dias denied having any association with Glenn Gumbley, which “changed after the (Toronto) Star presented email correspondence and invoices obtained by the newspaper and a lengthy interview with Gumbley that establish Gumbley at the centre of Unifor’s campaign.” Gumbley led the charge for the ill-fated Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association two years ago and didn’t appear to know much about the inner-workings of the players he’s trying to protect. Read more

Why Ryan O’Reilly stands to take a pay cut in salary arbitration

O'Reilly

The list of players going to salary arbitration this summer came out over the weekend and a total of 23 either filed to go through the process or had their teams take them to arbitration. It’s an interesting process that, if nothing else, provides the motivation necessary to one or both sides to start negotiating seriously. That’s why only a handful of the 23 will actually end up going to the hearing process and even fewer, if any, will actually result in a decision being handed down by the arbitrator.

Some of the more interesting tidbits to come out of the filings – 20 of which were players taking their teams to arbitration and three teams taking the players to arbitration: Read more

Great news for Canadiens fans: P.K. Subban files for arbitration

Ken Campbell
PK Subban

The Montreal Canadiens and star defenseman P.K. Subban will live in contractual harmony for at least one more season, probably two. That was guaranteed when Subban filed for salary arbitration before the Saturday deadline.

And while the league has long been opposed to the arbitration process, this is not necessarily a bad thing for either Subban or the Canadiens on a couple of fronts. First, it is certain Subban will not be embroiled in a contract dispute with the Canadiens and will be in training camp the day it opens in September. Second, it protects the Canadiens from having another team submit an offer sheet on Subban. And finally, if it goes all the way to arbitration, it ensures that Subban will be neither overpaid nor underpaid. Read more

Compliance buyouts have been very, very good to these guys

Lecavalier

When Mikhail Grabovski signed a four-year deal with the New York Islanders that will pay him $5 million a season, he pretty much hit the jackpot. Not the Vincent Lecavalier jackpot, mind you, but the windfall was still mind-boggling.

That’s because Grabovski is one of 28 players who are being paid not to play hockey for the teams that originally signed them under the leagues’ compliance buyout system. You know the one. It’s the buyouts that essentially have given teams a mulligan on bad contracts that were signed before the last collective bargaining agreement. It’s also the one the NHL Players’ Association seemed dead-set against having part of the new system, although when you see the money that teams threw around, you’d have to wonder why. Read more

Red Wings left out in the cold after years of ruling NHL

Boyle

All right, so now that (almost) all the dust has cleared in Free Agent Frenzy 2014, here are some thoughts on Day 1 of a crazy off-season:

MOTOWN NO TOWN FOR FREE AGENTS Let me get this straight. Dan Boyle took less money and term to sign with the New York Rangers than he could have received from the Detroit Red Wings. What is this, Opposite Day?

After pretty much ruling the NHL for the past two decades, the Detroit Red Wings have fallen on hard times indeed. Remember the days when free agency would open and the Red Wings would basically open for business, basically telling whichever veterans stars they wanted that playing for the Red Wings was a privilege? The Red Wings never begged and they never got turned down. Read more