By Allan Muir
Ryan O’Reilly may be back with the Colorado Avalanche, but the story of how he almost became a Calgary Flame isn’t over yet.
As first reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston this morning, Flames GM Jay Feaster failed to understand a very critical element of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Had Colorado accepted draft pick compensation instead of matching Calgary’s two-year, $10 million offer, O’Reilly would have been subject to waivers before joining the Flames as a result of having played in the KHL after the NHL season got underway.
And that would have meant only one thing: O’Reilly would have been claimed by another team (likely Columbus) and the Flames would have given away a first- and third-round pick for nothing.
All because Feaster and his staff didn’t bother to contact the league and make absolutely certain that there was no misunderstanding of this CBA clause.
Fortunately for the Flames, the Avs matched the offer and spared Feaster that disastrous outcome.
But while he didn’t lose the picks, he may have lost something more valuable: the trust of Calgary’s ownership in his ability to move forward.
And if that didn’t do it, this press release issued by the team this afternoon, with quotes attributed to Feaster, should do the trick.
“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.”
This is amazing, George Costanza-esque excuse making.
They had a different interpretation but were “prepared to advance their position” to the league? That’s great…but shouldn’t their position have been in concert with the league from the start of the offer sheet process? And if there was any doubt, shouldn’t Feaster have asked before signing O’Reilly?
Hey, it’s a new CBA with some elements that are still evolving. There’s no shame in saying, “I don’t know” and making sure you’re on the same page before making a franchise-altering decision. Because 100 times out of 100, the league’s position is going to carry the day in a dispute. How could Feaster not understand that?
And who cares if O’Reilly’s agent Pat Morris shared Calgary’s interpretation of the rule? That’s like a 12-year-old arguing that his friend’s mom lets him watch restricted movies, so he thought it would be okay to go see Django Unchained. Morris’ opinion is weightless in this, and bringing him into it as an excuse is an act of desperation from a man who got caught with his pants down.
O’Reilly could skate for the Avs as soon as Sunday. Chances are this story will take another interesting turn or two before then.