The Calgary Flames were forced to release a statement clarifying their unsuccessful attempt to sign restricted free agent forward Ryan O'Reilly to an offer sheet on Thursday.
A report early Friday on Sportsnet.ca indicated that because O'Reilly played games in the KHL after the NHL's shortened season began, he would be subject to the NHL's waiver process. As such, Calgary could have not only lost the first- and three-round draft picks required as compensation for the offer sheet, but helplessly watch the coveted O'Reilly picked up via waivers by a team lower in the standings.
Flames general manager Jay Feaster released a statement indicating that both the club and Pat Morris, O'Reilly's agent, didn't believe that the 22-year-old would have been subject to waivers once signed.
Feaster's statement reads in full:
"Prior to tendering the offer sheet for Ryan O'Reilly we, as a hockey operations department, examined whether there were any impediments to our successfully securing the services of the player including, but not limited to, his having played in the KHL after the start of the current NHL season.
Our interpretation of the Article 13 transition rules governing restricted free agents ("RFA"), and the applicability of Article 13.23 under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to such RFA's was, and continues to be, different than the NHL's current interpretation as articulated to us this morning. Moreover, throughout our discussions, the player's representative shared our interpretation and position with respect to the non-applicability of Article 13.23.
While we were prepared to advance our position with the NHL, in light of Colorado's having matched the offer sheet it is now an academic point. As such, we will have no further comment on the matter, the player, or the offer sheet process."
Colorado had a week to match Calgary's two-year offer to O'Reilly, but responded in a matter of hours by choosing to retain a player they'd squabbled with in a contract holdout.
The Avalanche ended up paying more than they offered O'Reilly, who went to play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk when a deal wasn't reached. O'Reilly will make $1 million US in base salary this season, with a signing bonus of $2.5 million. His 2013-14 salary will be $6.5 million.
That means that O'Reilly's next contract with the Avalanche will have to be worth at least $6.5 million annually to retain his rights.
It was reported that Colorado was offering in the ballpark of $7-8 million over the next two years.
If the report about the waiver process being applicable is true, had the Avalanche not matched, O'Reilly could have found himself having no say as to who held his NHL rights.
The NHL hasn't officially responded to the area of confusion. The league, it could be argued, hasn't always been clear about whether waivers are applicable to players who skate overseas after an NHL season begins.
Evgeni Nabokov, as an unrestricted free agent in one example, was signed by Detroit but claimed by the New York Islanders via waivers.
Several teams objected when Nashville was able to gain Alexander Radulov for their playoff run last year, but the league ruled he was still technically under contract to the NHL club despite spending the previous few seasons in the KHL.
The O'Reilly bid continued the historical trend of offer sheets being matched in the NHL on nearly every occasion.