July 23rd 2014 marked a big moment for the Colorado Avalanche organization. Colorado and Executive Vice President Joe Sakic, General Manager Greg Sherman, Ryan O'Reilly and agent Pat Morris were able to settle a short-term bridge contract. O'Reilly was awarded a two-year deal worth $12M, $5.8 and $6.2 per, with a season cap hit of $6M per. It finally opened up a gate to both Ryan and the Avalanche that said, "Hey, we really want you." and "Hey, I really want to be here." Although it is not the contract either side wanted, it for now, is enough to put a smile on the faces of both sides. "When we shook hands, I think we were both very happy I know the Colorado Avalanche is very happy," Sakic said. "He's a very valuable player to us and we want him long term. That (contract) hasn't happened yet, but we'll keep working at it and see what happens."
Sakic has also said, "This is not a sign and trade contract, we want to work out a long term deal with (Ryan) O'Reilly." Assuming Colorado and O'Reilly can come to terms by July 1, 2015 and trade deadline 2016 - Ryan will be with the Colorado Avalanche for a long time, if they can come to terms. After the loss of Paul Stastny to free agency 2014, as long as Joe Sakic is calling the shots (which he most certainly will be) Ryan O'Reilly will either be signed or traded at the deadline. Becoming a pending UFA in 2016 makes it mandatory to sign or ship the now 23 year old forward.
If O'Reilly's next season and a half prove that 2013-14 was not some fluke season that won him the Lady Byng, leading goal scorer (28) and top 5 in points on the roster, the price for him will certainly go up. That is the point when Sakic and Sherman will have to choose the fate of this young man in and Avalanche uniform or not.
His teammates were excited to see him back, on twitter Nathan MacKinnon posted to Ryan O'Reilly, "Yay!" after finding out he had signed, later that day, Erik Johnson posted a picture of cartoon Donald Duck diving into a pile of gold money, with a 8-) face aimed at Ryan O'Reilly.
This helps certify that the team around him also want him back in the lineup and will have him for a minute.
*On another note, Colorado Avalanche have now shifted their attention toward young defensemen Tyson Barrie. Barrie had an incredible rookie season that saw him in 64 games posting 38 points. Had he played the entire season, he was projected to nearly break the 50 point mark. His rookie entry level contract saw him at an AAV of $900,000 - not going to get into the entire break down of AHL vs NHL and what he "MADE" but his cap hit at the NHL level took $715,000. Regardless of making $67,500 in the AHL or $840,000 before bonuses in the NHL, Tyson is looking for a pay raise.
The young defensemen was a +17 only had 20 PIM and played key points in games as well as the PK and PP. In 3 playoff games he was a +3 with 2 assists before taking a dirty knee from Matt Cooke. An injury Tyson has fully recovered from, according to Avalanche trainer Matt Sokolowski.
Colorado knows full and well what their official cap room is with O'Reilly signed as well as other pending RFA's that signed these past few weeks. Tyson Barrie will more than likely want to be kept long terms, he is apart of this core that the Avalanche are building with. His contract could look similar to O'Reilly's where he gets less one season but more down the road. The AAV should stay between $3-3.5M and the length within 3-5 years. Barrie has never signed an extension before making it more likely that he will want less term to "prove" he is worth more.
The Avalanche look to have Barrie signed before training camp begins. With very limited cap space left, Colorado could be looking to move a few players for draft picks. Among those players could be, defensemen Ryan Wilson, who looked very promising until his constant injuries. Marc-Andre Cliché, Patrick Bordeleau, Cody McLeod are three possible others, at this point it is more logical for one of them to move over any AHL players. Their cap hits are higher and Wilson's is the highest. In 4 playoff games Wilson was a -1 with 2 assists and he only saw 28 regular season games where he netted 6 assists and a +1. In depth charts around fans and hockey gurus Wilson does not show up on the NHL roster to start the team. He will also be battling up and coming rookies like Stefan Elliott, Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens and a few others as well as free agent signings like; Zach Redmond, Bruno Gervais, Maxim Noreau, etc.
NHL Roster ideas:
LW C RW
Landeskog Duchene Iginla (Only natural RW on current NHL roster)
O'Reilly MacKinnon Tanguay?
McGinn Talbot Briere?
Bordeleau/McLeod Winchester Mitchell
(Hishon, Cliché, Bordeleau/McLoed --- Call ups or scratch)
(Guenin, Elliott, Wilson, Redmond, Gervais, Siemens -- call ups scratch)
Big name to watch for is Bigras, he could make an NHL leap - otherwise he will be in the minors one more season since he doesn't not make AHL age limit. After a stellar season Owen Sound Attack, Bigras could be a shocker here. He was recently tagged with and entry-level deal.
(There is a slight chance that Calvin Pickard or Sami Aittokallio make the NHL leap. They will most certainly be called up in any injury, time-off or you're playing awful situations.)
Colorado's depth has grown this off-season, keeping their own was key, although they lost Stastny the Avs are in a better spot. They brought in some vets that can help with the Playoff loss and help them bounce back. Players that have been in that situation that will put a new mind set into this team. They will regress no question, but they will carry the load just fine. It is always nice to be #1 in the division, conference or entire NHL, but you only NEED to be top 8 to make the playoffs. That is when true learning from the past season will kick in and the Avs could do better than they finished.
Only time will tell, but Colorado will see a playoff berth again this year with the vets help to slow a young and crazy team down and teach them how to win when it matters most. Don't expect 51 wins again, Varly doesn't have the same backup in Conn Smythe, Stanley Cup winning J.S. Giguere and his back up could either be one of two rookies that steal a roster spot or and unproven still learning the NHL, Reto Berra.
With the depth that was added and the lack of veteran experience departed and experience acquired, Colorado will have a shot at fighting for the Central Division again in the 2014-15 season.
Pre-Season Avalanche tickets are on-sale; they will play the Ducks, Canadians, Flames and Kings each twice beginning September 22nd at Pepsi Center at 7pm. It will be a split squad because the other half will be playing in Anaheim at 8pm on the same day.