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Reeling Avalanche appear no closer to settling Ryan O’Reilly dispute

It mustn't be easy as a fan of the Colorado Avalanche to reconcile with the fact that no iteration of the franchise will ever be as successful as the one that moved from Quebec in 1995, traded for Patrick Roy, then won two Stanley Cups in its first six seasons.

But the loaded squad of the Avalanche psuedo-dynasty is long in the past now, and they have to move forward with whatever pieces they have.

Or… not. Colorado was without indubitably its best two players -- as it has been for the last six games -- when they were shutout 3-0 by Viktor Fasth and the Anaheim Ducks.

The best player and captain of the new-look Avalanche is on the shelf with a concussion after sustaining a hit from Brad Stuart. Their second best player seems quite content to remain the last restricted free agent holdout.

I don't use the term "holdout" as a pejorative. The NHL fought during the lockout to reduce the second contracts of players like O'Reilly, but when Jamie Benn, PK Subban and Dmitry Kulikov are all playing—and playing well—for their respective clubs, you have to wonder how long the Avalanche are willing to remain steadfast in their opposition go pay the man what he's worth.

This is the latest from Adrian Dater of the Denver Post this morning, that specifically mentions the possibility of a team sending O'Reilly an offer sheet:

The Avs' contract offers to their leading scorer from last season remain two years at $7 million or five years at about $17 million. While the differences on a two-year deal are much closer than a five-year deal (O'Reilly wants in the neighborhood of $25 million on that one), the Avs appear to have drawn a line in the sand with their offers.

With no softening of the O'Reilly camp's stance, that would seem to leave only two possibilities: a trade or an offer sheet from another team.

One of the underreported aspects of this standoff is the growing possibility that another team could make O'Reilly a Group II free-agent offer sheet. There are many teams interested in making a deal for O'Reilly, but it's unclear whether the Avs are considering moving him.

A team can offer O'Reilly maximum $5,046,585.00 of annual average value without having to give up a second round pick along with a first and third it would cost a team in compensation to sign O'Reilly to an offer sheet.

Is O'Reilly worth it? Well, that's a question that could be better answered by the internal metrics the Avalanche presumably use to evaluate players. By my external ones, compiled over at Behind the Net in form of shot-differential data, I can tell that Colorado is a worse team at handling the puck this year compared to last, although the season is still young.

Last season, the Avalanche took 49.8% of the total number of unblocked shots in score-close situations of the games they played, while this season, that number is precariously down to 46.1%, the sixth-worst in the league.

O'Reilly led the team in scoring last season, but where him and Landeskog were regarded as being the most valuable was in their two-way play against tough opposition. Again, according to Behind the Net, Landeskog and O'Reilly were Nos. 1 and 2 on their team by the site's "quality of competition" metric and still managed to out-shoot and out-score that tough opposition as a unit. This season, their job has fallen into the hands of David Jones and Paul Statstny, who are not as elite of a puck-possession unit, it would seem.

It's certainly rare that one or two players will make or break a hockey club, but in the case of the Avalanche, who don't have a whole heck of a lot of depth, it's already like they're chalking up this season as a write-off by not signing O'Reilly. I guess kudos are due to general manager Greg Sherman, who didn't let Landeskog's injury influence a signing decision that he may later regret if he doesn't believe O'Reilly is worth that much. That said, the club is tempting fate, by leaving O'Reilly unsigned, they may find themselves either having to let him go or match an offer sheet put out by another club in desperate need of a quality two-way centreman.

In that case, the Avalanche would lose a month or so of time they could have had O'Reilly on the roster.

That, or the Avalanche as an organization are confident that no offer sheet will ever come the way of O'Reilly. They're either very trusting of the other 29 teams, or have made the gamble that no competing team in the league could use a young, two-way centreman to bolster their squad. Marc Bergevin eventually won out on his staredown with Subban after no offer sheet came P.K.'s way that was worth signing. It doesn't hurt Sherman to try to win this one, so long as he's confident that offer sheets are a thing of the past.

Follow Cam Charron on Twitter at @CamCharron

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