The Colorado Avalanche and Ryan O’Reilly have always had difficulty seeing eye-to-eye when it came to his monetary worth. It took O’Reilly signing an offer sheet, which Colorado matched, to end his hold out in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign. When it was time to renegotiate in the summer of 2014, the two sides only narrowly avoided arbitration by inking a two-year, $12 million deal.
With O’Reilly now just one season away from becoming an unrestricted free agent though, he reportedly demanded a massive eight-year, $64 million payday, according to the Denver Post. Instead, Colorado dealt him to Buffalo last night along with Jamie McGinn in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the 31st overall selection.
If those numbers are accurate, then that’s identical to Phil Kessel’s contract, which the Maple Leafs forward is only one season into. Kessel has recorded at least 30 goals on five separate occasions and has reached the 80-point mark twice. O’Reilly, while admittedly more notable for his two-way game, has only reached the 20-goal or 60-point milestones on one occasion and that was back in 2013-14. He took a hit last season, finishing with 17 goals and 55 points in 82 contests.
On top of that, now that Kessel is on the open market, his contract might be a detriment to the point where Toronto is reportedly willing to take a contract back to sweeten the pot.
We’ll have to wait and see how O’Reilly’s negotiations with Buffalo goes. In the short-term, the Sabres wouldn’t have a problem inking him to that kind of a deal, but the term might hurt them later as their young up-and-coming stars develop and eventually start demanding big raises. To give one example, if Jack Eichel has the kind of career Buffalo’s hoping for, then his first deal following his entry-level contract could be huge, as was the case for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Steven Stamkos before him.
That all being said, it’s possible that what O’Reilly wanted out of Colorado isn’t the same as what he wants from Buffalo. It could be that his history of having to battle the team for every new contract influenced what it would take for the Avalanche to keep him long-term. Either way, Buffalo is going into this with eyes wide open.
“You know going in when you make a trade like this that negotiations are going to be starting a high number,” Sabres GM Tim Murray told the Buffalo News. “We’re fully prepared for that.”