James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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An awkward match

Friday, March 01, 2013

It seems like offer sheet situations are awkward by nature. They’re awkward for the team that owns the restricted free agent’s rights, awkward at the country club when the two general managers of the clubs vying for that player’s services see each other and awkward whether the player leaves town or especially if he stays.

Granted, not every matched offer sheet scenario is the same. Sometimes, a random team swoops in and gives the player in question an offer (sheet) he cannot refuse. In those cases, it doesn’t really have to be as uncomfortable; it’s mainly an example of the player accepting an outstanding deal. (Joe Sakic’s eventually matched offer sheet from 1997 ranks as a good example.)

For my money - actually, really, other peoples’ money - the 2013 season presents two examples of the most awkward “reunions” we’ve ever seen.


To some extent, it’s tough to top the Nashville Predators matching the Philadelphia Flyers’ bold gambit for Shea Weber. Much like the Houston Rockets did with Jeremy Lin, the Flyers designed that offer sheet to make life difficult for the cash-strapped Preds. For better or for worse, Preds GM David Poile decided that the thought of losing a Norris-caliber defenseman (and captain) was too much of a price to pay both on the ice and in the PR world, so he matched it. Weber had a disturbingly slow start to the season, but now it seems like all is well … Nashville is even in its familiar spot (scratching and clawing to likely make the playoffs).

Even if the parties seem like they’ve patched things up - at least publicly - I’d argue it’s pretty tough to top the awkwardness of that Weber scenario. The Colorado Avalanche’s mess with Ryan O’Reilly is competitive, though. It also was more entertaining.


Long story short: O’Reilly and the Avalanche got more than a little combative during the negotiations. His dad sent a deeply weird e-mail to the Denver Post chiding Colorado for not valuing (i.e. paying a lot of money for) “character.”

Many eyebrows were raised when the Calgary Flames sent O’Reilly an offer sheet on Thursday, but the Avs didn’t take long to match it. It’s almost as if the two sides were kind of like the NHL and NHLPA during the horrible CBA negotiations: just in need of a harsh deadline to actually get a deal done.

The specifics of the deal aren’t too fantasy-relevant, although it’s important to note the Avalanche cannot trade O’Reilly for a year. Depending upon how the 2014 Olympics might impact the trade deadline, that might actually mean that Colorado won’t be able to trade him during his brief contract (which covers the rest of this season and 2013-14).

What can we expect on the ice, though? Well, that’s actually a really tough question.


O’Reilly is a favorite of stats bloggers because he’s a fantastic two-way player. He’s the kind of guy who would be a serious Selke Trophy candidate if that award went to great defensive forwards, not pretty good defensive forwards who score a lot of points.

Anyway, one reason Colorado and O’Reilly had trouble agreeing on his value is because he saw an enormous jump from his first two seasons to his last campaign (*cough* which was a contract year *cough*). O’Reilly had gone from 26 points in both 2009-10 and 10-11 to 55 points (18 goals) last season.

Here's the thing: even in 2011-12, he wasn't that amazing fantasy-wise. He only had 12 PIM and 189 shots on goal. He topped all Avs scorers, but it's not like Colorado was lighting up the scoreboard.


In other words, for O’Reilly to really be worthwhile, he’ll need to produce more than he did in a huge breakthrough year. That’s not as unlikely as it is for others - he’s still young and receives more chances - but it’s no guarantee, either.

There’s one more important question: is he in shape?

O’Reilly missed out on even an abbreviated training camp and will need to dive right into action during the NHL’s hyper-competitive shortened season. Even if he’s in top form, he might be a little rusty, like Ryan Kesler was pre-broken foot.

(Then again, there’s the devil’s advocate counterpoint: he also has one less month of wear-and-tear and did play in the KHL a bit.)

Overall, I’m not overly excited about O’Reilly. He’s not a huge scorer or peripheral guy, although you could argue that we haven’t seen the best from him yet. Maybe he’s worth a look, but don’t expect him to save your (or Colorado’s) season by himself.

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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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