Following the Canucks’ emotional 5-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions on Saturday night, General Manager Mike Gillis appeared on CBC’s After Hours segment with Todd Simpson and Scott Oake. The three covered a fair bit of ground in the interview: talking @strombone1, the two bluechip netminders in goalie-ville, Gillis’ decision to shut Manny Malhotra down, and tacked on briefly at the end of the segment, they chatted Ryan O’Reilly.
For those of you who’ve spent this week in solitary confinement, Ryan O’Reilly was signed to an offer sheet by the Calgary Flames earlier this week and the Colorado Avalanche quickly matched the two-year pact. Had the Avalanche decided against matching the O’Reilly offer sheet, they would’ve recieved a first and a third round pick from the Flames and also Calgary would’ve had to put O’Reilly on waivers before he could play in their lineup. The reason? O’Reilly played a couple of games in the KHL past the January 19th deadline and was thus subject to CBA rule 13.23.
So do we buy that Mike Gillis was aware of this rule and a step ahead of Feaster on this? Read on past the jump.
Let’s start with Mike Gillis’ specific comments to Scott Oake on this subject during the After Hours broadcast last night. He was asked whether or not he was aware that Ryan O’Reilly would’ve been subject to waivers had any offer sheet he signed gone unmatched by Colorado, and Gillis responded with the following:
"Yes, he played games in Europe and so we were aware of it. Jay Feaster is a really good GM with lots of experience. There’s so many moving parts in this, there’s a new agreement out there, and it’s hard to stay on top of all of these different types of things. It’s an unfortunate situation but the results there."
On the one hand, few if any teams have used the collective bargaining agreement to their advantage with the ruthless efficacy that the Mike Gillis led Canucks management team have consistently demonstrated during their tenure. That probably earns them the benefit of the doubt on this matter, though of course they’ve only had a couple of months to master the new collective bargaining agreement (which isn’t even public yet, something which we’ve been struggling with in a big way this season).
On the other hand, when Mike Gillis was asked by Jason Botchford on the Team 1040 to address Chris Johnson’s Ryan O’Reilly scoop Thursday morning (pretty much right as the news was breaking) and the Canucks GM didn’t tip his hand and come down definitively on the issue. Instead he simply said that in his judgement, the offer sheet tool had zero chance of netting the Canucks the player (though the organization fielded several requests from O’Reilly’s camp on this front):
"Of course [we considered offersheeting O’Reilly], we looked at everything but we didn’t feel confident that we wouldn’t be doing anything that wouldn’t be matched.
So you know, you make a decision – his agent called us often to try and convince us to do it but we didn’t see anyway that we could get the player. If you can’t get the player it’s sort of more of a frivolous kind of activity."
This is a bit of a digression, but asked more generally about the scarcity of offersheets and their relative lack of utility in the NHL (in comparison with say, the NBA), Gillis gave a really interesting answer on Thursday morning that I might as well include:
"It’s part of the CBA and there seems to be a stigma in the NHL about doing it, which, you know we don’t adhere to that belief. I think if there’s a player available you have to try and do everything you can to get him, but if you know that you can’t, if you know that the other team is going to match anything out there… And what it might do to your lineup and your salary structure on your team – you have to be pretty careful."
So again, Mike Gillis didn’t say anything about the applicability of waivers to the Ryan O’Reilly situation in the immediate wake of Johnson’s explosive report on Thursday morning. Two days later, however, he claims that the Canucks organization knew what was what. That makes me go, "hmmm," I must say.
Skepticism aside, I tend to think that the Canucks would’ve known – especially since they considered going the offersheet route with O’Reilly and discussed the possibility with his agent. It would be very un-Gilman-like for the club to have missed this detail while doing their due dilligence and exploring the offer-sheet route on O’Reilly.
But what do you think dear readers? Is this an example of empty hubris from Gillis, or were the Canucks a step (or two) ahead of Jay Feaster and the Flames on this subject?