Jan 17, 2014, 12:42 PM EST
Circle Feb. 28 on your calendar. It’s as of that date that the trade freeze lifts on Ryan O’Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche can move the star player if they wish to do so. The Avalanche weren’t allowed to trade him for 12 months after matching Calgary’s offer sheet last Feb. 28.
There are several teams we’ve spoken to over the past week that are eagerly anticipating Colorado’s decision on O’Reilly. Does the team move him or keep him?
He’s a restricted free agent July 1 whose qualifying offer costs $6.5 million. No small potatoes. Of course the Avalanche can also sign him to an extension for less money if O’Reilly is up for that.
A few thoughts on this:
— It’s hard to see the Avs committing to both O’Reilly and Paul Stastny, a pending unrestricted free agent, for the long term. Both are natural centers, as is Matt Duchene, who’s already locked up through 2018-19. And at some point, they’ll probably want to explore moving Nathan MacKinnon to his natural position in the middle, where forwards can exert the most influence on a game.
— The Avs could use another top-four defenseman, and O’Reilly could get them that. As a pending UFA, Stastny isn’t worth as much on the trade market. To maximize their assets, re-signing Stastny and trading O’Reilly may — repeat: may — be the way to go.
— O’Reilly says he wants to stay in Colorado. But remember, that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t that long ago that things got pretty nasty between club and player. Granted, a lot has changed since then. New management. New coach. According to the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater, “any tension between player and team has dissipated.” But has it dissipated completely? The owners haven’t changed, and they’re the ones that write the checks. And could that same tension re-emerge this summer if contract talks go badly again?
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