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Rumor Roundup: O'Reilly and Avalanche headed towards another contract clash?

Lyle Richardson
By:

Author: The Hockey News

Rumors

Rumor Roundup: O'Reilly and Avalanche headed towards another contract clash?

Lyle Richardson
By:

The Colorado Avalanche appear headed to another round of contentious contract negotiations with Ryan O'Reilly...why the Ottawa Senators won't be trading Jason Spezza to a Canadian team...and will R.J. Umberger be a tough sell for the Columbus Blue Jackets?

For the second time in as many years, the Colorado Avalanche appear headed to another round of contentious contract negotiations with Ryan O'Reilly.

The Avalanche recently elected to take O'Reilly, 23, to salary arbitration rather than pony up $6.5 million to qualify his rights. The Denver Post's Adrian Dater reports the two sides can continue to negotiate up until July 15, but if still unresolved a date will be set for an arbitration hearing.

Dater claims the Avalanche prefer to use his annual average salary of $5 million as a starting point for negotiations, while O'Reilly's agent Pat Morris believes it should begin at his actual salary ($6.5 million) for this season. Should this go to arbitration, the new CBA stipulates O'Reilly cannot receive anything less than 85 percent of his actual salary, which would be $5.5 million for 2014-15. He can also chose a one- or two-year contract.

Morris indicated O'Reilly hopes to remain with the Avalanche, but as he'll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status in two years, this could become a year-to-year situation until his UFA eligibility. This prompted Dater to speculate the Avalanche could shop O'Reilly, noting rival GMs can contact all free agents – restricted and unrestricted – starting June 25, plus there's a five-day window (July 1 to 5) where O'Reilly can sign an offer sheet. He suggests O’Reilly’s trade value could fetch the stud defenseman the Avs need to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

The Avalanche undoubtedly prefer to retain O'Reilly, but they don't intend to pay more that $6 million annually. They're paying for the folly of their previous regime, which tried to play hardball with the two-way forward last year. That resulted in a holdout by O'Reilly, leading to the Avs being forced to match a two-year, $10-million offer sheet from the Calgary Flames.

With negotiations between the two sides reaching yet another delicate stage, rival GMs will closely follow this situation.  One of them could pitch O'Reilly a hefty offer sheet. The Avalanche must carefully weigh their options, which includes gauging his trade value.

There will be teams keen to land O'Reilly. The rebuilding Buffalo Sabres could offer up Christian Ehrhoff or Tyler Myers.  Maybe the Nashville Predators come calling by packaging a young defenseman with their first-round pick. The Phoenix Coyotes could dangle Keith Yandle, while the Toronto Maple Leafs could offer up Jake Gardiner in a package deal.

NO CANADA FOR SPEZZA
Should the Ottawa Senators trade Jason Spezza leading up to the NHL draft (June 27 and 28) in Philadelphia, they won't be dealing him to another Canadian club. TSN's Darren Dreger claims six of the 10 teams on Spezza’s no-trade list are Canadian.

It's believed Spezza prefers to go to an American club where he won't face as much pressure as he has with the Senators. He's particular over which one he'll accept being dealt to, as the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and New York Islanders are also on the list.

The Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues are believed the front-runners for Spezza's services, while the Dallas Stars could be a dark-horse candidate. All three have depth in young talent and draft picks to entice the Senators.

UMBERGER TOUGH TO SWALLOW
Spezza isn't the only player to submit a 10-team no-trade list this week. The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports left winger R.J. Umberger presented his list over the weekend to Blue Jackets management. No word yet on which teams Umberger would reject as trade destinations.

Umberger's performance has declined over the past couple of seasons and he was a healthy scratch late this year. It's possible that his aggressive style is starting to catch up with him.

Moving the 32-year-old winger won't be easy, in part because he has three more seasons at an annual cap hit of $4.6 million. The Blue Jackets could be forced to pick up part of his salary to make him attractive in the trade market.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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Rumor Roundup: O'Reilly and Avalanche headed towards another contract clash?