Let's get this out of the way at the top: I don't like basketball. There are a lot of reasons for this -- none of them the inferiority complex most hockey fans get about the NBA -- but it mostly has to do with the NBA itself. I love the NCAA Tournament, but I hate the NBA. I hate the lack of parity. I hate the smugness. I hate how a "Larry Bird" rule needed to be created because Larry Bird almost left Boston. How stupid is that? And I really hate how one player can change the entire dynamic (because only 10 guys suit up every night). It creates that smugness around the league because superstars are so much more important.
I'll watch a game or two when I have the time and the Rangers aren't playing. Call me a really, really fair-weather fan. I was excited when they got Melo, and I actually thought about going to a game in the beginning of that marriage. I never did. I've actually never been to a Knicks game ever.
Disagree if you want, I'm not trying to convert you to hate the NBA, I'm just telling you this at the top so if some things don't transition below you know why.
Anyway, three years ago the New York Knicks' brass were met with a dilemma: Anthony -- one of the premier players in the NBA -- was less than a year from free agency, and he wanted to be a New York Knick. The problem? A lockout was looming and Melo wanted his new contract before the CBA changed. Who can blame him there? Many NHL players did the same thing before the hockey lockout happened a couple of years ago.
So the Knicks moved Hell and high water to get him to New York. They moved a ton of assets, gutted the team and brought their superstar "home." The move worked and it didn't. Melo has been amazing in his stint with New York, the Knicks haven't been so amazing in their stint with him. There's a difference.
On one hand you really can't blame Melo for thinking about leaving to chase a ring. The Knicks were able to offer him more money (because of that stupid Larry Bird rule) which probably played a huge role in the decision; but he could have left. That's the point.
What does any of this have to do with hockey? Well, it sort of serves as a warning.
The Ryan O'Reilly situation is beginning to reach the louder decibels on the noise machine. The unhappy marriage between the two sides reached a head two years ago, when a then holding out O'Reilly signed a two-year, $10-million offer sheet from the Calgary Flames the Avalanche subsequently matched.
As it stands right now, the two sides are destined for arbitration, where an arbitrator will award O'Reilly a salary for either one or two years. O'Reilly will select two years, and hit the UFA market as a 25 year old with a massive contract waiting for him. If you want a breakdown of just how nasty this is, Adrian Dater covers it pretty well here.
Here's the thing: the longer the Avs keep him in these two years. the less his trade value will be. Any team that acquires him - and gives up a lot to get him - has to be assured he'll sign there long-term. Otherwise, the Avs will be stuck with an expiring-contract-soon-to-be-UFA player that only gets something like a second-round pick and a no-name prospect. Let's say O'Reilly is still with the Avs by the deadline of the 2015-16 season, and clearly going to the open market when the season is over: the Avs won't get as much for him as they might, say, right now.
This is where things circle back to the Melo situation. Carmelo came to the Knicks via trade and signed a three-year deal. Then he could have bolted for nothing this summer.
There are a lot of you who want O'Reilly, and I know the feeling because I agree with you. He's an intoxicating blend of speed, playmaking, defensive ability and goal scoring. He lead the Avalanche in goals last year with 28. He's also just 23 years old. His best years are way ahead of him.
He's a player that you better keep for the long haul if you do trade for him, though. And that has nothing to do with "attitude issues" that people automatically tag to players in situations like this. The Avalanche made their own bed with O'Reilly, and I would probably feel just as slighted if I was in his shoes and the team negotiated with me like that. He's not a spoiled brat pouting because he didn't get what he wanted for Christmas, he's a player with a ton of value who wants to be compensated properly.
Keep in mind the Rangers really don't have the assets to make a huge move for him, although if he wants to go to New York -- and there is NO information supporting this claim one way or another -- it might make things easier on the Rangers. It's probably not happening but there's always a chance.
You just need to make sure you're weighing out the risks and rewards when dealing with a situation like this. Trading for a great player is fantastic if you get to hold onto him for awhile. Losing him after two years for nothing is a complete kick in the gut that's harder to recover from than you think. That needs to be factored in when you're looking at this.
Just ask the Knicks. They almost learn this lesson the hard way.