CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster says the team performed due diligence before signing Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly to an offer sheet.
The Flames released a statement Friday after Rogers Sportsnet in Canada reported that O'Reilly would have been placed on waivers if the Avalanche hadn't matched Calgary's offer sheet on Thursday.
Had the deal played out that way, the Flames would have lost a first- and third-round draft pick and O'Reilly, who would have likely been snapped up by another team.
That would have been unacceptable for any team, but particularly costly to an aging Flames team struggling to get into the Western Conference playoff race.
According to the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, O'Reilly would have had to clear waivers because he played two games in Russia's KHL after the start of the NHL regular season.
But Feaster said on Friday that his club did research before presenting the offer sheet to O'Reilly, who led the Avalanche with 55 points last season.
"Prior to tendering the offer sheet for Ryan O'Reilly we, as a hockey operations department, examined whether there were any impediments to our successfully securing the services of the player including, but not limited to, his having played in the KHL after the start of the current NHL season," Feaster said in a statement.
At issue is Article 13.23 of the collective bargaining agreement, which states that a professional or former professional player that played in a league outside North America after the start of the NHL regular season must clear waivers before playing in the NHL that same season.
An amendment to that article was made in the latest agreement that ended the long lockout, allowing teams that re-sign their restricted free agents to avoid the waiver process. Therefore, Colorado won't risk losing O'Reilly by matching the Flames' offer sheet.
There doesn't appear to be any protection for a team signing a free agent from another club, but Feaster said that the Flames' interpretation of Article 13.23 "was, and continues to be, different than the NHL's current interpretation."
He also said that the prospect of losing two high draft picks as well as O'Reilly is now a moot point because Colorado matched the offer sheet.
The NHL declined on Friday to clarify whether O'Reilly would have had to clear waivers if the Avalanche didn't match Calgary's offer sheet.
"We agree with the Flames in the sense that the entire issue has become an academic point," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to The Canadian Press. "Ryan O'Reilly has signed a contract with the Colorado Avalanche and the contract has been registered. We have nothing further to say on the subject."