Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild - Game Three

Is the Avs – O’Reilly relationship beyond repair?


Ryan O’Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche seem like they’re on a crash course toward what could be a very contentious salary arbitration session, but the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater wonders how much a one or two-year deal might really resolve.

(Beyond the obvious benefit of keeping a very good player around longer, of course).

Dater lays out the two sides in rather unflattering ways, believing that O’Reilly is angling for every cent he can get in a longer deal – maybe in a cavalier way, as a lot can happen in the season or two before he’d potentially hit unrestricted free agency – while the Avalanche might be guilty of  losing track of the big picture.

In other words, the team and player seem stuck in the same negotiating loop they found themselves in two years ago.

Dater’s prediction, in particular, is quite grim:

My prediction remains the same: the Avs will keep him only so long as they don’t get a great trade offer for him. There is no question, though, that they have to trade him within two years if they know they can’t sign him. O’Reilly controls the cards on that if he wants. He can reject all offers by Colorado, with the mindset of “They never valued me for what I was really worth, so screw them, I’ll leave in two years max” and essentially force the Avs to trade him before then. Otherwise, he’ll leave for nothing. Just like Paul Stastny did.

At least it’s too late for an offer sheet situation to add even more drama to the proceedings, but it presents a conundrum nonetheless.

The Avalanche may face the toughest questions. Would they be better off trading the young two-way forward now rather than dragging this situation out? Is there any way they can rebuild a bridge that, if you ask many, was burned in a big way?

Even if O’Reilly walks when he gets the chance as Dater predicts, the Avs at least have some short-term motivation to keep him around for a little longer.

The Avalanche essentially swapped younger legs (Paul Stastny, P.A. Parenteau) for experienced players who might need sheltered roles (Jarome Iginla, Daniel Briere) this summer, so keeping a borderline Selke-caliber player around could make a big difference in 2014-15.

From the sound of things, this might all end a bit ugly. It’s just a matter of how much longer the “middle” portion of this story might be.

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock
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ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?