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Avalanche hope to extend O'Reilly before next season

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche remain hopeful of signing forward Ryan O'Reilly to a contract extension before the 2015-16 season, general manager Joe Sakic said Thursday.

O'Reilly, 24, has one year remaining on a two-year, $12 million contract and would be eligible for unrestricted free agency after next season.

The Avalanche lost free-agent center Paul Stastny to the St. Louis Blues last summer and would attempt to trade O'Reilly if they aren't able to agree to a new contract.

"I've had early conversations with his representatives," Sakic said. "We know where they're at. Like I said [in April], I'd like to have him signed by the start of the season hopefully. But right now is the time where we're focusing on the draft and free agency to see where we can improve our team."

O'Reilly, Colorado's second-round pick (No. 33) in the 2009 NHL Draft, is a valuable two-way forward who after a slow start finished with 17 goals, 38 assists and 12 penalty minutes in 82 games this season, with seven goals and 19 assists in the final 27 games. O'Reilly was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy last season when he had 28 goals, 36 assists and two penalty minutes in 80 games.

"I like Ryan a lot," Sakic said. "He's a very valuable player, a part of our core. My first priority would be to sign him. We'll see where it all goes. I'd prefer him not playing [the season] out. I think distractions alone ... 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."

Negotiations have been contentious in the past. The Avalanche and O'Reilly didn't reach a contract agreement following the 2011-12 season, after he had 18 goals and a team-best 55 points in 81 games. The Calgary Flames tendered O'Reilly, a restricted free agent at the time, a two-year, $10 million offer sheet on Feb. 28, 2013, and the Avalanche matched it.

O'Reilly signed his two-year contract last summer shortly before the Avalanche were about to take him to arbitration. He has 90 goals, 156 assists and 64 penalty minutes in 427 games in five NHL seasons.

Sakic said he also wants to sign defensemen Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie, and forward Nathan MacKinnon to contract extensions. Each is entering the final year of his contract. Johnson, who will make $4.25 million in 2015-16, would be eligible for unrestricted free agency after next season. Barrie will make $3.2 million and MacKinnon $925,000 in the final year of his entry-level contract; each would be a restricted free agent.

"We're certainly going to look at those extensions as well," Sakic said. "I talked to Erik Johnson's agent, so hopefully we can start that process. Hopefully we can work on something this summer. The same with the other two, but [they will be] restricted free agents, so we have their rights."

Sakic said Johnson has recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him for the final 34 games of the season; Johnson had 12 goals and 11 assists in 47 games. Forwards Patrick Bordeleau (knee), Jamie McGinn (back) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) are expected to be ready for training camp.

The Avalanche also need to replace assistant coach Andre Tourigny and video coach Mario Duhamel; each left the organization.

"I've met a few candidates, and there's no time frame for me to decide when it's going to happen," coach Patrick Roy said Thursday. "It's going well. I just want to take my time and make sure I'm going to hire the right person."

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