Why the Edmonton Oilers should *not* offer-sheet Ryan O’Reilly

Ryan O’Reilly is a very good player locked in a contract dispute with a division rival. Not only that, but his skill-set as a two-way centre who kills penalties, wins faceoffs and drives play in the right direction is a great fit for the Oilers’ organizational needs.

Despite that, they shouldn’t offer the restricted free agent an offer sheet.

The reasons are pretty straight forward:

  • An offer-sheet almost certainly won’t work.
  • The Oilers have a host of restricted free agents in the next few years that are ripe for reprisal/may look enviously at O’Reilly’s big raise.
  • The Oilers have a very, very recent history of having the best pick in the draft.
  • The Oilers don’t own their third-round draft pick

Restricted Free Agents

Over the next three summers, the Oilers have the following impressive list of core players entering restricted free agency:

  • Sam Gagner
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • Jeff Petry
  • Justin Schultz
  • Nail Yakupov

Those are five potentially big tickets, and that’s not even getting into guys like Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi.

This summer alone, the Oilers may find themselves in an interesting position with Sam Gagner, should he keep scoring the way he has. They opted to sign him to a one-year deal last summer, but if he keeps scoring at a point-per-game pace (or close to it) over a shortened season he’s going to command a fair-sized raise. That’s a problem because it’s really not clear if the organization sees him as a long-term fit, and it’s a bigger problem because the shortened season increases the chances that as offensive progression is a one-off rather than a true breakthrough.


The following is the RFA compensation range plausibly of interest with O’Reilly:

  • Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 – 1st round pick, 3rd
  • Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 – 1st round pick, 2nd, 3rd
  • Over $6,728,781 To $8,410,976 – Two 1st Round Picks, 2nd, 3rd

Does a five-year/$25 million contract wrest O’Reilly free from the Avalanche? Does a one-year, $8 million deal? I doubt it very much, but before the conversation can even be considered the Oilers would need to reacquire this year’s third round pick from Dallas.

Even if the offer sheet was successful, at this point could the Oilers be confident that the first round draft pick being sent the other way wouldn’t be used on Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones or Jonathan Drouin? It seems probable that the Oilers will finish well enough to avoid that sort of embarrassment, but it isn’t assured – particularly if something like a Devan Dubnyk or Justin Schultz injury were to occur. On defence and in net the Oilers are painfully susceptible to a single injury to a crucial player.

What About A Trade?

One big issue with a trade is the difficulty of negotiating a fair deal with a current divisional (and likely future conference) rival. Another is properly valuing O’Reilly.

I think Ryan O’Reilly is a superb hockey player, but I also think that because so much of his value doesn’t stem from point production there’s a danger that his numbers drop off. O’Reilly is one season removed from a 26-point campaign. Even last year, during his 55-point effort, he was a fairly middling scorer relative to ice-time, scoring 1.75 points per hour of 5-on-5 play (for the sake of comparison, that would have put him sixth among Oilers forwards last year, just after Sam Gagner’s 1.96 and Ryan Smyth’s 1.93).

O’Reilly makes up for it by playing tough minutes and driving the play in the right direction, but as Shawn Horcoff has ably demonstrated those players don’t get stuck by through thick-and-thin when they aren’t scoring (fun fact of minimal value: both Horcoff and O’Reilly were credited with 62 hits in 81 games last season). O’Reilly’s younger and better than Horcoff, but like hte Oilers captain many of his most important contributions don’t show up on the scoreboard. It would take a brave G.M. to move a high-end roster player and a prospect (the reported asking price, according to Darren Dreger) to a division rival for a guy who may never put up gaudy offensive totals. 

Naturally, the merits of any trade depend greatly on the details, so perhaps it’s possible that the Avalanche and Oilers could work out a mutually beneficial agreement that would see O’Reilly land in Edmonton. It seems highly unlikely, though.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • I am fine with Gags as our second line center. I would prefer he was bigger, meaner, harder to push off the puck, without giving up any of his offensive potential, but really what Oiler would not be better with those attributes?

    I hated the one yr deal as if he didn’t perform he is most likely done with the team and if he performs well he can hold a gun to our heads knowing how thin we are at centre and could ask to be paid like an elite centre. If he wants more then 5 per then i would be shopping him closer to the deadline. If we can sign him in around the 4-4.5 million range i would sign him for 3-5 years.

    If we decide to go bigger his points will make him valuable trade bait to acquire whatever pieces we need.

  • I would not offer sheet O’Reilly, but I would inquire about talking to him about his interest in playing with the Oilers and how much he is looking for.

    If he would be interested in 3-4 million I would look at trading whitney and a prospect or mid draft pick to get him. I would not even consider a 1st round right now.

  • “I’d take a shot at Penner again and let him roll with Hemsky, it’s low risk, won’t cost us a valuable piece, or salary.” — says Oilclog.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    As for O’Reilly looking great with Paajarvi and Hartikainen, I don’t expect to see any of them with the Oil next season. O’Reilly because of cost (acquisition and salary). And even if he did arrive, would you place him with Paajarvi and Hartikainen? Don’t think so, O’Reilly is at least a second line centre on this team, they are fourth line players (and can’t score).

    As for getting something for Whitney in a trade, what is the scuttlebutt out in the NHL universe as to value? And as for Eager, is he tradeable?

    Interesting to see what Tambellini does with Gagner.

  • What I would do if a trade could be made for O’Reilly would be to ship Hemsky and Hartikainen.

    I would move Gagner over to the wing for the remainder of the year, if the experiment with O’Reilly doesn’t work out you can slide Gagner back over. And drop O’Reilly down.

    If it does work you now have Gagner to replace Horcoff.

    This should save the Oilers in cap dollars and gives you offensive option as a third line center.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Everyone is trade Hemsky, trade Hemsky, trade Hemsky when he’s struggling, then he puts in work and gets better now its trade Hemsky: his value will never be higher. -.- Why can’t Hemmer play here forever?

    We should give Phoenix a 2014 1st and Whitney for OEL then 6 months later fire Tambellini and hire Maloney as our new GM.

  • The issue for the Oilers at centre isn’t size, it’s that RNH and Gagnere 😉 are similar in style.

    We have one current play driving player in the Gunz – Hall. The river flows back, sometimes pretty hard on anyone not playing with him.

    I don’t know if we need a two way or play driving second C, but the third at least has to be able to put some points up (not too many or he’ll become unaffordable) and play tough comp, basically hold his own and score a bit – young Horcoff, Messier lite.

    That allows either Ganger or RNH to play easier comp and destroy them. If that third centre (Lander is looking like he can’t score enough) doesn’t show up both Ganer and RNH against good teams will play a pretty good opponent.

    That will limit their output, especially in the playoffs when you don’t see players having a night off much.