The knives are out in Colorado.
You knew they would be after the Avalanche matched Calgary’s offer sheet for forward Ryan O’Reilly. Not because the Avs matched, but rather, because the club had its hand forced on its own player.
Here’s the Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla teeing off on Colorado general manager Greg Sherman and team president Pierre Lacroix.
Let’s be honest: Colorado management wanted O’Reilly gone far away from Denver, with the team privately bad-mouthing both the player and his family. Now, the Avs are stuck with paying the popular 22-year-old center at least 40 percent more than a previous take-it-or-leave-it proposal, all because the Calgary Flames broke NHL etiquette and stuck Colorado with a hefty offer sheet.
The bottom line: Dilly-dallying instead of closing a trade to bring a top four defenseman to Colorado in return for O’Reilly, the Avalanche let their payroll structure be set by a general manager in Calgary, of all people.
Once the most feared franchise in the NHL, the Avs now could, and maybe should, be the laughingstock of hockey.
Kiszla’s conclusion? “It’s obvious what Colorado management is doing to restore lost hockey glory hasn’t worked. It’s time for the Avs to overhaul the whole way they do business.”
What the Flames did (yesterday), essentially, was potentially blow out the Avs’ salary structure in the next couple years. The Avs let the Flames set the market for O’Reilly’s value – and they had to swallow their pride and accept it because gambling that they’d get a lottery pick with the Flames’ first-round pick this year was too poor a prospect. How awful would it have been for this team if they’d not only let O’Reilly go to Calgary, but then gotten a worse draft pick maybe thanks to his helping them out the rest of the year in the standings? It would have been a humiliating blow.
And today was humiliating enough for Avs management. They clearly gambled that nobody would break the offer sheet code that most teams live by – especially in the year after a lockout – and that they would be able to dictate to O’Reilly what his market value would be, not the other way around. Well, guess what? They lost that bet.
Meanwhile, in Calgary, Flames general manager Jay Feaster might have a few things to explain as well.