By Allan Muir
For the second time in a day, Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster baffled everyone with his thinking.
His decision to sign restricted free agent forward Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year, $10 million offer sheet might have seemed like a bold strike to solve his team’s glaring need for a No. 1 center. Instead, it strengthened a divisional foe ahead of the stretch drive. And he should have known that’s exactly what was going to happen.
Not that Colorado wasn’t willing to send the reluctant O’Reilly packing. In fact, after months of failed negotiations, finger-pointing and embarrassing parental interference, it was the preferred ending to this tiresome drama.
But an offer sheet? Nice try, but Do No Harm had a better chance of succeeding.
Colorado GM Greg Sherman might have even let O’Reilly go to a divisional rival like Calgary. But it would have come at a far steeper price than a pair of compensatory draft choices. Even a possible lottery pick in a top-heavy draft was never going to be enough of a plum.
So if there was any surprise to his decision to match the offer, it was only in how quickly it came down.
Poor Feaster. If he crafted this deal to make it difficult for the Avs to match, he did a lousy job.
Sherman may not have liked the money — a $2 million signing bonus, a pro-rated $1.5 million this year and $6.5 million in 2013-14 — but his boss is a billionaire. It was no real hurdle.
Neither was the two-year duration. It might have seemed clever in that, if Colorado matched, it would return O’Reilly to RFA status at the same time as Gabe Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Semyon Varlamov.
But all it really did was buy Colorado time.
The Avs get O’Reilly back on the ice where he’s desperately needed for at least the next calendar year. And if there’s no progress on his third contract by that point, they can put him back on the market on Feb. 28, 2014, just ahead of the trade deadline.
Nice and neat.
There’s going to be a lot of speculation about how O’Reilly will be received in the Colorado room since it was assumed he’d played his last game for the organization. I’m not claiming any intimate knowledge of the dynamics of that group, but I’d be surprised if it was an issue.
This wasn’t a holdout. He didn’t have a deal, so O’Reilly didn’t abandon the team.
But more to the point, every guy in that room understands the business. They all want to make as much money as someone will pay them. And every one of them knows they could be in the exact same position some day.
If there’s any awkwardness, it should evaporate shortly after O’Reilly pulls on that sweater and helps the Avs build on last night’s 5-4 OT win over the Flames…and maybe he picks up the tab for a team dinner with that big bonus check.
Sherman might want to do the same for Feaster. It’s only fair to return a favor.
UPDATE: Turns out Feaster might want to buy dinner for Sherman instead.
According to a report by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, the O’Reilly would have needed to clear waivers before joining the Flames because he played two games in the KHL after the NHL season started.
There’s no doubt he would have been claimed by Columbus, much like the Isles claimed Evgeni Nabokov after he was signed out of the KHL by the Red Wings in January of 2011. If that had happened, the Flames would have been out two valuable draft picks with nothing to show for it.
Probably something Feaster should have looked into before signing O’Reilly to the deal, right? Fortunately, Sherman’s quick action spared Feaster the embarrassment…and maybe saved his job.