Some actual player personnel news in Canuckistan today, as the club announced the signing of Victor Oreskovich to a one-year, two-way contract worth $605,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL. Oreskovich was the last remaining free agent from the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks.
Oreskovich, an RFA, received his qualifying offer at the end of June, at the same time as fellow RFAs Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen. Lapierre re-signed immediately, and Hansen re-signed just one month later, but negotiations with the Oreskovich camp lasted the entire summer. What was the problem? Oreskovich wanted a one-way deal and held out until just a week before the start of training camp in hopes of getting one. That he didn’t means this is a clear win for Mike Gillis.
The issue for Oreskovich is that he had no leverage whatsoever.
After being picked 55th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Oreskovich initially went to Notre Dame on a scholarship, where he struggled during his freshman year. Just 9 games into his sophomore season with the Fighting Irish, Oreskovich left the school to join the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, where he played under head coach Peter DeBoer.
Oreskovich signed his first professional contract in July of 2007 with the Avalanche, when he was still 20 years old. Under the CBA, this means that he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until he has had 4 years of professional experience. Last season would have been his 4th year of professional hockey, but after signing his contract and not making the Avalanche out of training camp, Oreskovich refused to report to the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL and announced his retirement from hockey.
Seemingly regretting his decision to leave college for the OHL, Oreskovich returned to Notre Dame to complete his degree in finance, reigniting his passion for hockey along the way. Fortunately for him, Peter DeBoer was now the head coach of the Florida Panthers, where he tried out and earned a contract. But, those lost years removed his options in restricted free agency this summer.
Without the ability to go to salary arbitration, Oreskovich had no bargaining chips. Once the Canucks gave him his qualifying offer, Oreskovich had no bargaining power. His one recourse was to wait and refuse to sign a contract, but that would simply lead to another lost season. With the sheer volume of fourth line options entering training camp this season (as documented in this post on Brad Winchester), a fourth line forward refusing to play is not much of a threat. And, having already received one second chance at an NHL career, Oreskovich was unlikely to test fate again by following that path.
Consider the case of Jannik Hansen last off-season. While loaded with potential, Hansen had yet to play a full season for the Canucks thanks to injuries and was coming off a two-way contract. He rejected his qualifying offer and elected to go to arbitration, where he was awarded a one-way, giving him a leg up in training camp over other players with two-way contracts, such as Alexandre Bolduc, Jeff Tambellini, and, yes, Victor Oreskovich. Certainly, Hansen was likely to make the team anyway and, after the stellar season he just had, it seems ridiculous now to even consider that he might have started the year in Manitoba, but at the time it was a possibility.
Because Hansen was able to elect for salary arbitration, he was able negotiate the type of contract he wanted. Without that option, Oreskovich eventually had to settle for what Mike Gillis was willing to give him, a minuscule increase on his previous deal, albeit one that pays more handsomely at the AHL level. Thanks to the patience of Mike Gillis, a player with size and potential who can be sent down to Chicago without going through waivers will cost his bosses significantly less money while playing in the AHL.
Tags: featured, Mike Gillis, Oreskovich, spotlight