Getty ImagesWhat kind of an effect will the Steve Downie ACL injury have on the Colorado Avalanche moving forward?
Well, it might force GM Greg Sherman to speed up negotiations with their 21-year old center, Ryan O'Reilly.
In early December, O'Reilly signed a 2-year deal with Metallurg Magnitogork of the KHL and stayed there, unsigned as a restricted free agent, once the lockout ended earlier this month. The contract included a clause allowing O'Reilly to terminate the deal should he reach an agreement with the Avalanche.
On Thursday, it was announced that via mutual agreement, O'Reilly's contract with Metallurg would be terminated, citing the upcoming transfer window and an injury he suffered earlier this month.
This decision is due to two main factors:
1. Canadian striker received minor damage in one of the matches of the home series Magnitogorsk, and then aggravated it in the game with "tractor". Full recovery will take time.
2. Ryan and his agent continues to negotiate with one of the NHL.
Avalanche blog Eurolanche notes that O'Reilly missed two games with a "minor knee or leg" injury; an injury that O'Reilly apparently aggravated in the last game he played.
The KHL's transfer window closes on Jan. 31, at that time team rosters freeze for the playoffs, so had O'Reilly signed an NHL deal after that date, Metallurg would be left with one less roster spot going forward. Also, with the foreign born player quota, this move allows them to sign one before next Thursday.
The Denver Post's Adrian Dater thinks the two offers on the table for O'Reilly are fair: a 5-year deal worth $17 million or a 2-year deal for $7 million, but it's time to do something:
The Avs can cling to principle all they want with O’Reilly, but when your hand is forced by things such as injuries, you can’t sit on principle forever. You have to do something to, you know, give yourselves the best chance to win hockey games. That might mean having to give in and pay a little more than you feel you should to a player.
Having invested in lucrative deals for Erik Johnson, David Jones and free agent P.A. Parenteau in the past year, do the Avalanche really want to continue playing hardball? We're talking about a 21-year old who can grow alongside Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene -- who are both due new deals in the summer of 2014 -- and form a core of players the franchise can market and build around for years to come.
If only there was a method for another NHL general manager to swoop in and offer a contract of their own, forcing the Avs' hand and putting an end to this stalemate.
For what it's worth, Bob McKenzie of TSN reports that O'Reilly and the Avalanche are "are no closer to a deal than they were pre-lockout."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy