Ryan O’Reilly might be one of the most intriguing free agents in the NHL this off-season. What makes him an intriguing option is that he is not an unrestricted free agent, he is just a restricted free agent.
The thing is, the Colorado Avalanche are in a bit of bind in what do do with their center situation. While O’Reilly’s cap hit is $5 million, the offer sheet he signed with the Calgary Flames ensured that the Avalanche would be paying in $6.5 million in actual cash during the 2014-15 season if they qualified him.
The problem is that the Avalanche have fellow center Paul Stastny set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. With his performance this season, Stastny will be getting a lot of the money in his next contract and the Avalanche would probably like to retain his services.
So O’Reilly’s pay increase causes a problem. While the Avalanche have tons of room under the salary cap, so they could probably re-sign both of them and still have some room left, they are not a cap team. They look to be a team that has it’s own salary cap. Keep in mind that the Avalanche have at least six players becoming UFAs or RFAs on July 1.
This is where the Toronto Maple Leafs come in. Matthew Coller of ESPN has a list of restricted free agents that could get offer sheets and the best fit for him on another team. In O’Reilly case, Coller believes the Leafs are best fit for him. Makes sense, as the Leafs have been said to be interested in O’Reilly for years.
Coller suggests an offer sheet of the Leafs paying O’Reilly $49 million over seven seasons, giving him a $7 million cap hit. Coller says that the Aves would like to keep O’Reilly but also want to sign Stastny, Jamie McGinn and Tyson Barrie. They might not be able to sign all four of them with their cap system. He also mentions the fact that Nathan MacKinnon will be set for a long-term deal within the next two seasons and we all know that deal will be huge, or what Coller calls a “mega deal”.
If the Avalanche chose not to match the Leafs offer sheet, they would get two first-round picks as well as a second- and third-round pick. The problem with that is that the Leafs don’t have a second-round pick to give this year so the situation is a little dicey with the new collective bargaining agreement.
Ryan O’Reilly would definitely be a fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs. If there is a way to acquire him, the Leafs need to look into it. However, I think a trade might be more likely.