In doing so, Colorado thwarted Calgary's attempt at acquiring what general manager Jay Feaster described as a "franchise player." It also might have saved the Flames from making a catastrophic mistake.
If the Avalanche had decided not to match the offer sheet, the Flames would not have automatically acquired O'Reilly because he would have to clear waivers before joining the team's roster, according to a report by Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.
That is because O'Reilly had played two games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League after the NHL lockout had ended. Johnston reports that Metallurg's head coach, Paul Maurice, and a KHL spokesperson confirmed that O'Reilly was in the lineup for games on Jan. 21 and Jan. 23.
This would denote O'Reilly as a free agent from Europe, which requires him to clear waivers.
In essence, Calgary would have given Colorado first and third-round picks as compensation for O'Reilly and then potentially lost him if another team put in a waiver claim for him.
According to Johnston, this wouldn't apply to re-signing with the Avalanche because he was previously employed with the club. Bob McKenzie of TSN added that prior to the enactment of the newest collective bargaining agreement, O'Reilly would have had to clear waivers before joining the Avalanche, as well.
However, article 13 of the memorandum of understanding allows for team's restricted free agents or draft picks out of Europe to join mid-season without waivers.