30 Thoughts: Ryan O'Reilly pursuit still a hot topic | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada30 Thoughts: Ryan O'Reilly pursuit still a hot topic

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | 07:10 PM

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Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly cannot be traded for one calendar year. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly cannot be traded for one calendar year. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

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Certainly, Calgary earned the wrath of its brethren when it comes to Ryan O'Reilly. But this isn't a case of one team screwing up when everyone else knew situation. Otherwise, it would have come out sooner. 
My general philosophy is the same as Colin Powell's: focus on the windshield, not the rear-view mirror. 

But, we'll start this week's blog with a look back. 

It's usually bad if the crackberry buzzes right after Hotstove. The angrier people in the sport are about something that's said, the quicker they call or text or email. This time, they waited until Sunday, but the general tone was: "You were too easy on Calgary."

You know the story: If Colorado did not match the Flames' offer sheet to Ryan O'Reilly, he would have gone on waivers. Calgary could have lost the picks, the player and self-respect.

Visiting with Scott Oake and Craig Simpson on After Hours, Vancouver GM Mike Gillis said he knew O'Reilly would need to clear waivers if signed to an offer sheet. In that case, the Canucks knew O'Reilly played after Jan. 19. If he had stopped before then, waivers wouldn't have been a factor. 

There is just no way, however, every team in the league knew this. It is impossible to believe the Avalanche did, or else they would have scared off the rest of the league.

There are two major reasons opponents want to see the Flames get buried. First, O'Reilly's $6.5 million US salary next season becomes an arbitration comparable. Second, teams are steaming that owner Murray Edwards, who took a hard line during the lockout, approved this offer -- especially after Montreal held strong with P.K. Subban.  

Edwards, upon hearing this, will no doubt fire back at other clubs' contracts he finds excessive.

The rest of the league also doesn't believe the Flames knew O'Reilly played but "interpreted" the rule differently. The team isn't commenting further, but several sources are adamant the organization did know about his last KHL games. 

Anyway, the key thing here is it sounds like some teams reached out to NHL Central Registry to ask about O'Reilly. (Central Registry is responsible for approving all contracts, trades, etc.). From what I understand, these clubs asked questions about potential financial structures and how they'd work under the new CBA. I couldn't find any evidence the waiver issue came up.

When it comes to offer sheets, teams have two distinct philosophies: some believe, "Before we do anything, we ask, 'Is there anything we have to be aware of here?'" so it doesn't blow up in their face like a Grade 10 chemistry experiment. 

Others say that if they were to try one, under no circumstances would they let the league know before filing. Generally, the NHL hates offer sheets. So, clubs feel it's better to just do it rather than getting heat beforehand.

The risk is that once the offer is filed, there is nothing Central Registry can do for you. It's a go, and you accept the consequences. Calgary chose door number two, and was very lucky things worked out the way they did.

Because of the NHL's dislike for offer sheets, there is a conspiracy theory that the league intentionally withheld the waiver information. I don't buy it. Flames fans will remember the 2003 trade deadline. The team acquired Dean McAmmond, a move that was approved, then overturned because of a CBA technicality.

It's very rare, but there are times things avoid detection. My belief is that in all of the craziness of this shortened season, O'Reilly's extra KHL games went unnoticed. 

If you think the Flames were wrong to post an offer in the first place, that's another debate. Certainly, Calgary earned the wrath of its brethren. But this isn't a case of one team screwing up when everyone else knew the situation. 

Otherwise, it would have come out sooner. 


1. One question being asked is: will this be it for offer sheets? When Nashville matched Shea Weber's, teams and agents looked at it and said, 'if that structure won't work in that situation, you're never going to get the player to move.' So, they figured a shorter term like O'Reilly's was the way to go, because it forces you to overpay a younger guy years before unrestricted free agency. That didn't work, either. Agents will continue to try, but will teams bother if you're just going to inflate salaries and not capture the target?

2. For those of you thinking Colorado should've taken the picks and let O'Reilly go on waivers (assuming they knew of this option), the Avalanche would've been seventh in line based on results up to and including Feb. 28. Ahead: Columbus, Washington, Florida, Buffalo, Islanders, Tampa. Wouldn't have worked. 

3. O'Reilly cannot be traded for one calendar year and the biggest challenge will be making a positive impact in Colorado. The best thing that happened to Kyle Turris last season was starting over far from Phoenix. The Senators understood he was way behind after missing so much time. Will the Avalanche be as understanding?

4. The Flames failed to land O'Reilly, but that doesn't mean they're finished trying to make moves. They aren't happy with what they've got, particularly the lack of size. That's why they traded for Brian McGrattan, but it would be a surprise if that was all. The interesting one is Jay Bouwmeester.

5. The defenceman has a no-trade clause on a deal with one more year at $6.6 million US (cash) and $6.68 million (cap hit). It's a big number, but defencemen are so hard to find. It is believed that there are some good teams interested in him. Here's the question for Bouwmeester: he will be 30 when he hits the market. If he goes to a better club and performs well, how much more does he get? And, is that kind of thinking important to him?

6. Other teams to watch: Florida, and that was before Stephen Weiss went down for the year. Just an awful stretch for a team that created much-needed excitement last season. What complicates matters is the Panthers lost an injury grievance with Sean Bergenheim, meaning they will have to pay him retroactively to Oct. 11. This is a team with a tight budget. 

7. They've told others they will not trade their best young players: Jacob Markstrom, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad. Do they try to unload veterans, go with the youth and a $50 million payroll next season?

8. Nashville: the Predators made waiver claims on Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk. After Monday's 5-1 loss to the Kings, Barry Trotz sure made it sound like more could come. Very steep drop in offensive numbers. Last year, eighth in five-on-five goals (168) and third in five-on-four power-play goals (50). This year they are 28th and 21st. If this was an 82-game season, those totals are on pace to fall to 107 and 32. 

9. Marian Gaborik: The Rangers do the Rick Nash trade 100 times out of 100, but that deal and other losses (Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko) robbed them of depth. The reason Gaborik might (and that's the key word: might) be available is the return could replace that depth. But the only way New York does anything with him is if the move really improves the team.  

10. Dean Lombardi had two separate three-hour conversations last week with capologist Jeff Solomon to map out some financial decisions. The biggest challenge for teams, Lombardi said, will be dealing with next year ($64.3 million US cap). That's down $6 million from this season and it looks like 2014-15 will have a higher number. 

11. The Kings began talking with Rob Scuderi, "but it's not far along yet," Lombardi said. They have about $15 million in room, with some restricted free agents who are really improving -- Slava Voynov, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Jonathan Bernier, who's been excellent but has a murky future. Lombardi adds everything is being done with an eye on Dustin Brown, who is two years from unrestricted free agency.

12. Lombardi was patient with his group as it struggled early because, "there was nothing out there that made sense" aside from Keaton Ellerby and "this was a new experience for me, too. I've started from scratch before, but learning how to stay at this level of success is equally as hard." He does believe that the opportunity for Voynov, Clifford and even Drew Doughty to take on bigger challenges with key players injured will make the team better.

13. That low cap next season is why other teams figure Dallas traded for Erik Cole. Michael Ryder -- heading into free agency -- had nine points in six games before the trade. It was going to cost the Stars a lot more than they wanted to keep him and they are trying to get an extension done for Derek Roy. When you're not a cap team, sometimes you go for cost certainty. Was surprised, though, Montreal didn't eat any salary.

14. Adam Oates on what he's learned so far as a head coach: "That it's not easy," he laughed. 

15. Had a terrific conversation with Oates last week about his dislike for players lining up on their off-wing. He is 100 per cent against it and explains why with an MLB analogy. "You look back through the history of baseball and every shortstop throws right. Why?" "Because it's too hard to make the throw left-handed," is the reply. "Right," he says. "How many plays won't be made because a left-handed shortstop isn't able to turn, get set and make the throw with strength or speed?" He believes the same theory applies to a winger on the wrong side.

16. One play he uses to illustrate this theory is Alex Burrows' 11-second overtime winner in Game 2 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. 

Watch Andrew Ference off the draw. "He takes two steps, is closed off and has no play," Oates said. He then pointed out something very interesting. Look at Boston's roster now: four left-shooting wings. Four right-shooting wings. Two right-shooting centres. Two left-shooting centres. Three right-shot defencemen. Three left-shot defencemen. (It's true, you can look it up.) That's going to be the blueprint in Washington.

17. Oates, again with a laugh, asked if he's requested GM George McPhee re-sign Mike Ribeiro: "Yes, and I think Alex [Ovechkin] has, too." 

18. Final one from him, asked about his relationship with Ovechkin: "The one thing I made sure he'd know is that anything I told him would stay between us...Before I got here, he was guaranteed $100 million. He could easily have said, 'Go fly a kite.' But he's been great. I need this kid to trust me."

19. I relayed all of this stuff to someone, and he said to me, "You know how Ovechkin knows he can trust Oates? Because he never says once that Ovechkin's curve makes it very hard for him to play the left side."

20. The Blackhawks' 19-0-3 record is spectacular, but what really stands out to opponents is their incredible pace. In a season where players and teams are slowing down because of injuries and schedule fatigue, Chicago continues to push it. Health is obviously critical, but right now, they have the mix everyone wants: their best players are outstanding and their young players -- Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw -- can stay with them. 

21. Dave Bolland's missed six games, but he's the early season good luck charm. He went 29-0-2 with the 2004-05 London Knights, the CHL start-of-year record. 

22. One of Michel Therrien's biggest "wants" for this season was making sure everybody felt they had a useful role on the team. "If you look at us," he said. "Everybody plays." Ryan White is the only Canadien averaging fewer than 10 minutes, and he's close (9:51). Only Nashville, Ottawa and Pittsburgh can also say they've got just one player below double-digit minutes.

23. Therrien, asked if he feared he would never get another head coaching job: "Honestly, no. I always thought I'd get another chance."

24. One of the reasons the Canadiens are better is the players realized they used too many built-in excuses during last year's organizational craziness. Brian Gionta: "The new thing was making sure that everybody's mindset coming to the rink everyday was you weren't dragging, you weren't down." Josh Gorges: "Whatever the system was going to be, whatever the coach put in front of us, we had a group that said, 'We're going to listen, and we're going to buy in.'"

25. The team uses a very similar defensive system to New Jersey -- overloading the area with the puck. Gionta, though, points out one slight change: "We wait until the battle begins before we join." 

26. Here's the latest on realignment: the schedule does not allow for one giant conference call, so the NHLPA is having calls with several team reps at a time. As I finish this, it is still uncertain if this will be a vote among the 30-man executive board or if every player will get a ballot. The Eastern-based players, though, are really against the playoff structure.

27. If the plan is rejected, how will the NHL react? It is extremely unhappy that it invited NHLPA leadership to be part of the discussion and still can't get this done. Will the league ask an arbitrator to decide if the players actually do have the power to reject this? 

28. The union argument is this affects their conditions of employment. The league argument? No idea, but my guess is that there is little historical precedence of players being involved in realignment discussions. Betting on how an arbitrator will rule? Good luck with that one.

29. A lot of good questions about how a future expansion would work with 16 teams already in the East. Here's one idea: apparently, one of Jim Balsillie's pitches about a team in Hamilton was keeping it on the Western Conference.  

30. I've written before how I love the idea of a one-game five-vs.-four-division showdown at the end of the regular season to make the playoffs. Here's why I was told there are a lot of people within the NHL against it: because there should be a reward for making the playoffs after a long, tough season and not have it snatched away in one game. 

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