Originally written March 02, 2013 on Blue Seat Blogs:
Could Derek Stepan be eyeing up big money in the summer? Ryan O’Reilly was touted in various circles as a potential trade target for the Rangers during the team’s recent poor stretch of form. That was until he signed back with the Avalanche via an offer sheet from the Calgary Flames. In the process, O’Reilly may have just caused a headache for the Rangers. O’Reilly signed a two year, $10 million offer sheet from the Flames which the Avalanche were quick to match. In a nutshell, the talented fourth year Avs center is now making five million per year (cap hit) the next two years. Here’s where the problems start. O’Reilly; statistics, position, style and age is very similar and thus a comparable to the Rangers’ Derek Stepan. Stepan is about to become a restricted free agent this summer. Can the Rangers afford to offer Stepan O’Reilly money next summer? Absolutely not. Nor will they intend on offering that kind of cash especially considering how general manager Glen Sather goes about dealing with the ‘in between’ contracts of his own young restricted free agents. However, will Stepan have seen the O’Reilly contract (you can bet his agents will have) and will he now think he’s worth more than what the Rangers likely intend on offering? Food for thought. Last year Stepan had a breakout of sorts, with 51 points and 17 goals. In addition, he had a +14 rating, 16 powerplay points as well as four game winners. O’Reilly? He had 18 goals, 55 points and a -1 (which on a distinctly average Avalanche team wasn’t terrible at all). The production is therefore very similar. Both players are also considered solid two way players whose realistic ceilings are that of good, productive second line centers. O’Reilly has about 50 more regular season NHL games under his belt than Stepan, but there are so many similarities that it does bear thinking about when approaching contract season in a few short months. Should it take more money to re-sign Stepan (and no doubt, the Rangers will keep him) it could hinder their cap situation, especially when considering the cap is coming down in advance of next season. All manner of subsequent issues then arise: Can they re-sign other players? Do they struggle to fill out the roster? Do Brad Richards and/or Marian Gaborik become compliance buy-out candidates out of necessity rather than due to their own form? Whether Ryan O’Reilly is worth the cash the Avs have been forced to stump up will be seen over the next two years, starting next week. However in the mean time, he may have just created a financial headache for Sather and the Rangers. Tweet

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