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Hot Take: Deadlines to Decide the Fate of Ryan O'Reilly

Arbitration is this week, but the O'Character saga does not end there.

Bruce Bennett

Colorado Avalanche front office staff and Ryan O'Reilly will go to battle on Wednesday (probably) with an independent arbiter because they are incapable of negotiating this contract like logical human beings.

Oops, I say "they" like both sides are culpable, when in reality this front office hasn't had this problem with other players.

My fanboyism for Ryan O'Reilly is no secret, rivaled only by Jeff Marek's. He's one of my favorite players on the ice. I bought his unipron when it still said 37. It's also no secret that I can't stand the offseason rigamarole of free agent signings and trades and prospects and i*awesomeness.

So why, you may wonder, do I level a Hot Take at him, one of my favorites on-ice, today, in the off-season, about off-season bullshit?

The main reason is we just watched the front office bungle the Paul Stastny deal, letting a player other teams covet as a top line center walk for absolutely nothing to a divisional rival who already was likely to be better than the Avalanche next season.

Reasons don't matter. Excuses don't matter. Results do. That's an unacceptable precedent to set when it comes to asset management, so, Avalanche, I am here to help.

O'Reilly will be UFA-eligible in two years. That's why people speculate he's going to take the 2-year option and jet out of town. That cannot happen. So barring the eleventh-hour contract deal I keep seeing predicted by the same people who predicted the same for Stastny, the Avalanche have a few possible goalposts to hit to decide O'Reilly's ultimate fate in Colorado.

First Scenario: O'Reilly takes the one-year option

This puts the Avs right up against it. It would be really difficult right after being told in arbitration exactly what a snivelling pile of gunk you are out there, but the Avs would need to get to work immediately--immediately--on possibilities for a contract extension.

Stay in touch with that agent. Discuss possible numbers based on how O'Reilly's season could go. Always be touching base. By December, he needs to be signed. If that extension is long-term, the decision tree ends here. If the extension is only for a year or two, the Avs need to seriously consider moving O'Reilly next summer.

That maximizes the return on the asset and prevents him going for nothing when he hits UFA. The longer the team waits, the lower his price falls because teams are trading for less Ryan O'Reilly than the full season they get in the summer.

If the Avs find it impossible to extend O'Reilly he needs to be gone before the trade deadline. Not at the deadline--prices then are stupid. They can't risk him going into the 2015 offseason unsigned, unable to be taken to arbitration because they've already played that card, with a history of being more than willing to hold out and play overseas until some other team meets his contract demands.

Not only is that an unnecessary distraction, it potentially causes the team to lose a major factor in their lineup (pardon the pun) without improving the team until years down the line with draft pick compensation, and only then if you're lucky. That's a huge risk.

So if he takes the one year option, sign him before 2015, or move him before the deadline.

Second scenario: O'Reilly takes the two-year option

In this case Ryan plays a full season in Denver with no thought to numbers and signatures and bonuses and stuff. But Colorado need to work quickly as soon as the season ends to lock him up to an extension.

If Team O'Reilly want to wait and see, if they delay, we've already seen that isn't going to end well. This front office lost a top center for nothing at all remember? The two year option takes him right to UFA, so the Avalanche have no choice if he won't re-sign: trade him next summer.

Trade him at the draft, or trade him right after UFA season opens and teams who couldn't find the piece they wanted get panicky.

These goalposts are not set at random. These are where players' trade value start to diminish as their contracts come to an end--particularly ones who have histories of being bastards to deal with at the bargaining table.

If the Avalanche lose another premiere center they go from having superlative top-six depth to being absolutely sunk if either Duchene or MacKinnon get hurt. If they have no choice but to lose that piece, they'd better damn well make sure to shore up other problems the team has in so doing.

To do otherwise would be worse than giving away a valuable asset for free: it would be giving away two.

Apart from the Take, my ideal scenario is he takes two years and signs next June long term. Also, no, the cap structure pieces have not been forgotten, they're just dull to put together and I've been TRYING to enjoy summer but it's not even August yet and...