Oh, O'Reilly

Ryan O’Reilly, the Avs leading scorer from last season, is in a contract dispute with the Avs. On Jan 16th Adrian Dater reported that over the summer the Avs offered Ryno a 5-year deal worth $17M, or $3.4M/season. Well, this information quickly changed the narrative of the Avs being cheap, to Ryan O’Reilly being greedy. Most fans on twitter seemed to think Ryan O’Reilly was crazy for asking for more. I was one of those people as well.

But ‘ve changed my tune slightly. Now, if you look at the comparables for $3.4M on Capgeek I’d take Ryan O’Reilly over every single one as a player, except Duchene: But I think there’s method to Ryan O’Reilly’s madness, well his agents madness. Even if you look at $4.0M contracts, Ryan O’Reilly, before he enters his prime, mind you, is probably in this range of players worth more than all of those guys. What’s deflating his market value is his RFA status, and that’s why most Avs feel the Avs made a fair offer to Ryan O’Reilly. It’s hard to fault the Avs here, because they did make a pretty substantial offer, based on the past precedent.

What isn’t thought about as much is that the RFA market is pretty unfairly depressing players salaries for years. There’s pretty clearly a gentleman’s agreement that GMs won’t make RFA offers on good players (The fact that 29 teams haven’t made offers for O’Reilly is pretty ridiculous), pretty much for the sole reason of not ruffling the feathers of their colleagues/competitors.  I called it a gentleman’s agreement above, but it’s more or less collusion. Get this; Jaime Benn, a 23 year-old who is coming off of a 26G 63 Point season, has not gotten an offer from another team (well one he’s signed). Ryan O’Reilly, a 21 year old playing tough minutes and putting up 55 points for the Avs, also has no interest in being signed by another team. Jiri Hudler, however, got $4M/year. Are you telling me there’s not a playoff caliber team out there willing to pay O’Reilly $4.5M/season and give up a 1st and 3rd round pick (remember, for a good team these are low picks). I mean why would a certain traditional NHL power who is all of a sudden razor thin at defense after the retirement of one of the best defensemen ever to have played the game have any interest in trying to partially replace him with a 23 year-old defenseman whose good for 35+ points?

As you know, the same agency that represents O’Reilly also represents some other high profile RFAs that remain unsigned such as PK Subban. As Mile High Hockey noted, they also represent Drew Doughty, Steven Stamkos, and Bobby Ryan, all who held out for more money as RFAs recently. PK Subban reportedly asked for $5-6M/ season as well. This is pure, pure speculation (read probably bullshit) but it’s possible that the agency is trying to break the artificially deflated salaries that exist because of the GM embargo on signing RFAs. I can see why players (and their agents that represent them) would find this terrible unfair. Travis Zajac’s new contract with the Devlis probably strengthens O’Reilly’s case.

So, basically, I understand both sides in this disagreement. The Avs are playing the old conventional RFA game, and their offer under this system and precedent is a pretty fair offer. But the fact that player salaries are deflated by an unfair practice means that O’Reilly (and his agent agency) are using every piece of leverage they have to try and get their clients what they feel is what his price should be. It’s a predicament where neither side is entirely wrong, but not entirely right either.