How quickly things can change, eh?
With the news breaking yesterday that Steve Downie's knee injury will force him to miss the remainder of this season, the speculation began to ramp up that the Avalanche would work harder to bring unsigned Restricted Free Agent C Ryan O'Reilly back stateside with a shiny new long-term contract.
Helping to connect these dots is news now that O'Reilly and his Kontinental Hockey League team, Metallurg Mg, have mutually agreed to terminate his contract. The press release states two primary reasons for the decision to part ways: O'Reilly's recent injury was exacerbated by playing in Metallurg's most recent game and contract negotiations with the Avalanche continue.
The release also points out the KHL's transfer window, which ends on January 31, played a factor in this decision. The transfer window closing essentially means the players on the roster at that time will be eligible to play for the team in the playoffs
What does this mean for the Avalanche? On the surface, it appears O'Reilly has agreed to give up the leverage the KHL afforded him in negotiations with the Avalanche. Furthermore, it would appear the KHL's transfer window required O'Reilly to make a commitment for the remainder of the season and he was unwilling to give up the possibility of returning to the NHL at some point this season. All of this feels like it points towards O'Reilly coming to terms with the Avs in the very near future and returning to the NHL but it might just be my biased optimism at work.
If O'Reilly was injured enough he wasn't going to play in the next 7 days before the transfer window closed, it made sense for both he and Metallurg to part ways so as not to take away the team's ability to field a complete roster for any postseason play should O'Reilly leave for the NHL at any time. The injury should also be a concern to Avs fans as any hope of losing Downie and sliding O'Reilly into the lineup, presumably allowing Mark Olver to take Downie's vacated position, would be premature.
Huge glovetap goes to Eurolanche for originally breaking the news and MHH friend vtcapsfan for helping fill in some of the details. I'm sure there will be more to this as the day goes on.