NHL Notebook: Flames took gamble on O'Reilly

NHL Notebook: Flames took gamble on O'Reilly
March 3, 2013, 10:00 am
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On the surface, it was bold move by Calgary's general manager, Jay Feaster, to go out and sign Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year, $10 million restricted free agent offer sheet.
 
One which the Avs quickly matched, despite the second-year salary consequences.
 
Less than 24 hours later, however, Sportsnet.ca reported that neither the NHL nor Feaster knew that the 22-year-old O’Reilly played two games in Russia after the lockout ended and would have had to clear waivers.
 
In which case, O’Reilly would have been claimed and … Feaster would have lost his 2013 first and third-round picks for nothing.
 
Then again, if the NHL itself didn’t know about O’Reilly playing in Russia, he would not have had to go through waivers, anyway, would he?
 
Sportsnet reported that Metallurg coach Paul Maurice and KHL spokesman Shawn McBride, confirmed that O’Reilly appeared in games on Jan. 21 and Jan. 23 – both after the NHL lockout-shortened season began.
 
That meant that waivers were required before O’Reilly could return to the NHL as a free agent midway through the season.
 
A lot of people are getting on Feaster for not knowing this. Well, to those people we say this: if the NHL didn’t know and it has vast resources all over the world, then how could Feaster or the Flames possibly know?
 
Bottom line here is that Feaster took a gamble and tried to improve his club’s chances of making the playoffs by using the CBA and tools given him in a situation where Colorado was going no-where in its contract discussions.
 
The offer sheet made it very easy for the Avs to finally get a deal, except the way the sheet was designed, O’Reilly earns $6.5 million next season.
 
That’s a huge chunk of money for a guy who’s not exactly in the class of Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.
 
O’Reilly never scored more than 18 goals nor had more than 55 points in three years in Colorado. He is now going to be vastly overpaid.
 
“We attempted … to improve our hockey team,” Feaster told the Calgary Herald. “We think Ryan O’Reilly is a franchise player. We had trade discussions with Colorado but at the end of the day felt the price to acquire the player was too steep and was something would negatively impact our future.
 
“So we decided to make an offer sheet. We’re pleased the player accepted the offer sheet. We tried to structure it in a way we felt was best suited to get him. Obviously, Colorado has decided to match.
 
“We tried to improve our hockey team today. We try to improve it tomorrow. That’s where we are.”
 
Nonetheless, it would have set up a very interesting dynamic -- test? -- for the NHL had Calgary’s deal gone through and then some club had discovered that O’Reilly needed to clear waivers.
 
TSN’s sport law legal analyst, Eric Macramalla, gave a compelling reason why Feaster likely knew about this catch and still made the offer, anyway:
 
There was Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) when the new CBA was completed, but not ratified between all parties. In the MOU, it stated that,  “All Players on a Club’s Reserve List and Restricted Free Agent List will be exempt from the application of CBA 13.23 Waivers in the case of a mid-season signing.”
 
That alone would seem to suggest O’Reilly would not have had to clear waivers since he was on the Avs’ reserve list.
 
Associated Press, Calgary Herald, Sportsnet.ca, and Yahoo! Sports contributed to this report.