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Joe Sakic on Ryan O'Reilly: We Want Him Signed

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June 18, 2015


This morning, the Avalanche made Executive VP/General Manager Joe Sakic and Head Coach/VP of Hockey Operations Patrick Roy available to media prior to the 2015 NHL Draft. The big story leading up to July 1st is Ryan O’Reilly. While rumours are flying left and right about where he would go and at what price, Sakic maintained that he’d prefer it if the team could lock O’Reilly down:

“I like Ryan a lot,” Sakic said. “He’s a very reliable player and he’s part of our core… my first priority would be to sign him. Obviously we’ll see where it all goes.”

Sakic said he has had early talks with O’Reilly’s representatives. “We know where they’re at. Like I said, I’d like to have him signed by the start of the season hopefully. But right now is the time we’re focusing on the draft and free agency to see how we can improve our team.”

When asked if the team feels they are facing a soft deadline regarding O’Reilly’s contract extension and whether or not he plays out the final year of his current deal:

“I said I’d prefer him not playing [his final year] out,” Sakic said. He said it’s a distraction and, “I don’t think the team needs it. I don’t think he needs it. That’s why it’s important for us that we have something done.”

Another big rumor circling the Avalanche this offseason has been Roy’s purported interest in KHL phenom Alexander Radulov, who is eligible to return to the NHL this year. Are the Avalanche actively pursuing him?

“Whenever we have a comment or whenever we do something, we’ll comment on that then.” In the meantime, Sakic says no comment.

The Avalanche are looking to the free agent market to improve their roster, and Roy confirmed he’s interested in a left-handed defender:

“As a coach, yes. We’d like to have somebody to play with EJ and Tyson. Obviously we have Holden and Stuart who are a left shot… but we’d like to add a defenseman to play on the top four.”

Sakic stressed that any free agent signings “would have to make sense financially,” given the Avalanche have core players that will need to be re-signed at the end of next season.

“Well it’s definitely an exciting time for everybody, stressful as well. We’ve got guys that we’re looking to see… about adding to our lineup and see if someone fits. It’s a two-way street; you can like somebody but the thing with free agency is players pick where they want to go. We have guys in mind that we’d like to have come on board and help us win but ultimately it’s the player’s decision.”

“It is the time July 1, we have room but we also know we’ve got to look down the line as well as we’ve got guys who are probably going to have pretty healthy raises the following year. It’s a time of year you also have to be careful as well.”

Those raises would be new contracts for defenders Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson as well as young star Nathan MacKinnon.

“We’re certainly going to look at those extensions as well,” Sakic said. He mentioned he’s spoken to Johnson’s agent and is hopeful he can start that process, but, “that’s something you can’t do anything about until July 1st anyways, but hopefully we can work on something with him this summer and same with the other two [MacKinnon and Barrie].”

Sakic said he wouldn’t rule out anything when it came to re-signing current UFAs Ryan Wilson, Danny Briere, and Jan Hejda. “We’re going to look at all options. The door’s not closed to anything. We’re going to see how our team’s going to shape up and then we’ll make decisions depending on what happens out there.”

The Avalanche currently have the #10 overall pick in the draft. Sakic said he wants to use that position to draft the best player available, then use later rounds to bolster specific needs. However, he also didn’t rule out the possibility that the Avs may trade up for a higher pick, considering the high levels of available talent this draft year.

“We know there are some good [defensemen] that are going to be up top and there’s also a lot of real good forwards,” said Sakic. “It is a deep draft, especially the top 12-13. And then you get down to second, third and fourth rounds and there seems to be a pretty good grouping there as well.”

“When we get to the draft, a lot of things can happen, a lot of different opportunities,” he said regarding a potential trade. “But we’re content at #10.”

Roy had some good news regarding injured Avalanche players Jamie McGinn, Jesse Winchester, and Patrick Bordeleau, all of whom missed the majority of the 2014-15 season:

“We think that the three of them should be ready for training camp. We’re talking here about Winchester, Bordeleau, and McGinn. I spoke to [Avalanche head trainer] Matt Sokolowski last week and right now they seem to be doing well and better. We are confident these three guys will be back for training camp.”

Asked about Erik Johnson, Roy said: “He’s cleared to play. He’s ready to go.”

Also of note were Roy’s comments about the team embracing analytics and former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant GM Chris McFarland’s impact on the front office:

“I think everybody’s going down that line,” said Roy regarding advanced stats. “It’s important. I do believe our coaching staff did a lot of that internally last year and are very happy with the analytics that we got in-house. Chris has been very valuable to all of us and he’s really helping with trades and valuing trades… We’re excited to have Chris.”

Regarding the search for two new assistant coaches, Roy says it’s going well. “I met a few candidates. There is no time frame for me to decide when it’s going to happen. But it’s going well.”

Jean Martineau closed out the English portion of the conference by confirming that former Sacramento Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro will not have a role with the Avalanche as was rumoured. He’ll be working only with the Denver Nuggets.

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