How much will the Avalanche have to pay Ryan O’Reilly after salary arbitration


(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Avs filed for club-elected salary arbitration on forward Ryan O’Reilly. Two seasons ago, the two sides had difficulty coming to an agreement on a contract until the Calgary Flames signed O’Reilly to a two-year, $10 million offer sheet, which the Avs quickly matched.

The Avs can still work out a long-term deal with the embattled star, but if it goes to arbitration one of two things will happen:

  1. The arbitrator could side with the Avalanche and award O’Reilly an amount lower than the $6.5 million qualifying offer, but no lower than 85 percent of the player’s 2013-14 salary. That would be $5.525 million for O’Reilly.
  2. O’Reilly could win his case and Colorado could be looking at a cap hit exceeding $7 million for one or two years (player’s choice).

So what’s the most likely outcome if this goes the distance? Depends on the evidence presented.

According to Article 12.9(g) of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, the following evidence may be used in the hearing:

  1. The overall performance, including official statistics prepared by the League, of the Player in the previous season or seasons;
  2. The number of games played by the Player, his injuries or illnesses during the preceding seasons;
  3. The length of service of the Player in the League and/or with the Club;
  4. The overall contribution of the Player to the competitive success or failure of his Club in the preceding season;
  5. Any special qualities of leadership or public appeal not inconsistent with the fulfillment of his responsibilities as a playing member of his team;
  6. The overall performance in the previous season or seasons of any
  7. Player(s) who is alleged to be comparable to the party Player whose salary is in dispute.
  8. The compensation of any Player(s) who is alleged to be comparable to the party Player, provided, however, that in applying this or any of the above subparagraphs, the Salary Arbitrator shall not consider a Player(s) to be comparable to the party Player unless a party to the arbitration has contended that the Player(s) is comparable; nor shall the Salary Arbitrator consider the compensation or performance of a Player(s) unless a party to the arbitration has contended that the Player(s) is comparable.

Advanced stats like Corsi and Fenwick are not “official statistics prepared by the League,” so neither side can use fancy stats to make their case. But you can bet O’Reilly’s offensive production and time on ice in all three phases of the game would be highlighted by the player’s side.

O’Reilly is coming off a very strong season which saw him move from his natural position at center to left wing, scoring a team-high 28 goals and tallying 64 points. His two penalty minutes in 80 games earned him a Lady Byng nomination as well.

He led the team in time on ice per game and was one of only two Colorado forwards with a minimum of 70 games played last season to log over a minute per game with both special teams.

O’Reilly would spend even more time on special teams during the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, logging over two minutes per night on the penalty kill and over three minutes per game with the power-play unit.

Recently negotiated contracts provide the best evidence of the current NHL marketplace, and looking at the contracts forwards aged 21-23 in their platform year signed within past three years gives us a mixed bag, with values ranging from $2.75 million to $6.3 million per year. But O’Reilly’s camp will likely highlight two players as comparables: Jonathan Toews and Bobby Ryan.

Toews had his platform year in 2009-10 for Chicago, where he scored 68 points in 76 games, which earned him a contract worth $31.5 million over five years ($6.3 million in average annual value). Bobby Ryan also had his platform year in 2009-10, scoring 64 points in 81 games for Anaheim, for which the Ducks agreed to pay $5.1 million in each year for the next five seasons.

The Avalache will of course use comparables of their own, and likely be the first to point out Toews contract came after winning the Stanley Cup. They could also point to Logan Couture’s 2011-12 season, where he posted 65 points in 80 games, which earned him a two-year “bridge contract” from the Sharks worth $2.875 million per year. James Neal would be another comparable in their favor. Neal scored 55 points in 78 games during the 2009-10 season and got the same bridge as Couture: $2.875 million per year for two years. Wojtek Wolski tallied 65 points in 80 games during the 2009-10 season, leading to a two-year deal worth $3.8 million per year.

Remember, those sub-$5 million comparables aren’t to show O’Reilly is worth that much, it is to make a case for the lowest allowable award of $5.525 million. But that too is a tough sell when the Avalanche need to make a qualifying offer of $6.5 million to retain his rights. In other words, the Avs may have already set the low end of the scale through their own negotiations.

In the end, I think a long-term deal will be worked out with a $6.5 million average annual value over five to six years, which is in line with the contracts of other young stars in the league like Edmonton’s Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin of Dallas and Jeff Skinner from Carolina.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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