- Scott Burnside, NHL
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In what was a terrific lesson in New CBA 101, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.com what was first reported by Chris Johnston of Sportsnet in Canada that had the Avs not matched the two-year, $10 million deal produced by the Flames, O’Reilly would have immediately gone on the waiver wire and almost certainly would have been lost to Calgary.
It’s entirely possible that the Flames could have surrendered a first-round and a third-round pick in this summer’s talent-laden draft for a player who might never have played for them at all because of an oversight on the part of the team and the player’s agent regarding the rules.
Because O’Reilly played in the Kontinental Hockey League after the Jan. 19 start of the NHL season, he was subject to the rule that governs in-season signings. This rule requires all players signed after the start of the NHL season to pass through waivers. In recent years, this rule came into play when the Detroit Red Wings tried to sign netminder Evgeni Nabokov after he stopped playing in the KHL and the New York Islanders claimed him off waivers. Kyle Wellwood was signed by St. Louis but claimed by San Jose and Antti Miettinen signed with Tampa but was claimed by Winnipeg under the same rule.
As for reports the Flames could have held onto O’Reilly until next season and avoided the waiver process, sources told ESPN.com that was not the case and O’Reilly would have immediately gone into the waiver process had the Avs declined to match the offer sheet.
O’Reilly played his final game in the KHL on Jan. 23, according to KHL North American spokesman Shawn McBride and this official box score (where he is listed as "Rayan O'Rayli.")
While the Flames would have been subject to the waiver rule, the Avalanche are not.
An addition to the recently completed collective bargaining agreement stipulates that the in-season signing/waiver process does not apply when a team signs a player who is its own property and is playing elsewhere. In this case, O’Reilly, an Avalanche draft pick and a member of the team for the past three years, was a restricted free agent and was still technically the team’s property.
Hence, O’Reilly will rejoin the Avs without having to clear waivers.
Veteran agent Pat Morris, who was among those representing O’Reilly in what was a contentious contract negotiation with the Avalanche, reportedly told a radio station in Toronto on Friday that he was unaware that O’Reilly would have to clear waivers when O’Reilly signed the Flames’ offer sheet.
Calgary GM Jay Feaster did not comment Friday on the issue -- other than to issue a statement saying his interpretation of the CBA transition rule differs from that of the NHL, but that the matter was now "academic" -- but it’s hard to imagine any circumstance that would have seen him present the offer sheet, one that called for O’Reilly to make $3.5 million this season in salary and bonuses and $6.5 million next season, had he known that the highly coveted O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers.
There’s also the issue of whether the Avalanche knew this was the case either. It’s possible that Sherman could have declined to match the offer sheet, taken the Flames’ first- and third-round draft picks and then tried to claim O’Reilly off waivers. Or they could have arranged a side deal with a team like Columbus, which would have had first crack at O’Reilly given its place in the standings, not to claim the player and thus pave the way to obtaining him.
Sherman wasn’t available for comment either, and there would have been no guarantee the Avs would have been successful in reclaiming O’Reilly had they adopted that strategy -- assuming they knew the option existed.
In the end, of course, none of this happened.
The Avs followed the precedents of the vast majority of offer sheets and matched. But that doesn’t mean the fallout, especially in Calgary, where it’s fair to say personnel disaster was averted by the Avs’ matching of the offer sheet, is over just yet.
Almost as interesting as the Colorado Avalanche's decision to match an offer sheet from the Calgary Flames for restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly was the discussion Friday on what might have been.