Ryan O’Reilly is coming back to the United States, but it isn’t to sign with the Colorado Avalanche.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk—the KHL team O’Reilly has been playing for—announced that they have terminated his contract. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post confirms the news, but isn’t sold on why they did it:
The player and team have “mutually” agreed to terminate his contract. The team, Metallurg, issued a release in the wee hours (American time) saying as much. Where it gets a little confusing is the team cites a foot injury that O’Reilly “aggravated” in his last game. There is also an issue about looming KHL transfer deadline protocols that may have played into this.
O’Reilly, a restricted free agent, went overseas during the recent NHL lockout but remained unsigned once the season began. He had scored five goals and racked up five assists through 12 games with Metallurg. But clearly something is up as to why they released him.
Contract negotiations hadn’t been going well between Colorado and their top scorer from last season. It’s unclear as to how much O’Reilly is seeking from the Avalanche, but Mike Chambers of the Denver Post has stayed up to date with the latest news.
Chambers reports that O’Reilly’s agent suggests that he isn’t looking for a short-term deal of $5 million per year. The Denver Post had heard that he was looking for that type of money and had turned down two offers from the Avs of different lengths but around $3.45 million per season.
But for all those who think that O’Reilly has “mutually” agreed to leave Russia to come back to Colorado to sign, that’s not the case, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie:
Yes, Ryan O'Reilly is coming home from KHL. No, he is not any closer to deal with COL. There's been no progress. None.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 24, 2013
Colorado—who is 1-1 through its first two games of the season—could really use O’Reilly. Yesterday, it was reportedly that forward Steve Downie would miss the remainder of 2013 with a torn ACL.
During training camp, head coach Joe Sacco described the absence of O’Reilly as a situation “when you have a guy injured.” Well now Sacco is in a situation where he has two guys injured—Downie, who’s out for the year, and O’Reilly, who’s unsigned and potentially injured.
The corresponding move after losing Downie was bringing up Brad Malone—a confusing decision in my eyes. Malone isn’t going to put up the numbers that Downie was capable of and will likely be a healthy scratch for the upcoming couple of games. Chuck Kobasew will probably get the start on third line in Downie’s place.
But no matter who Colorado brings up to try to replace Downie, the Avs still haven’t replaced O’Reilly. He’s a player unlike any other on their roster, and they do need him in order to be a playoff team this season.
Now Colorado needs to find a way to sign him. If he’s actually injured like his KHL team says, then maybe they can sign him at a discount and hope he’s healthy enough to play in 2013. If he actually isn’t injured, then the Avs just have to cough up the money we all know that they have. CapGeek.com projects Colorado to have around $18.5 million to spend.
If I’m general manager Greg Sherman, I’m meeting O’Reilly at the airport to work out a new deal.
The Avs need O’Reilly and O’Reilly now needs the Avs.