The Avalanche has a Faustian bargain on its hands.
The darned-if-they-do, darned-if-they-don't situation goes something like this: If the Avs still really want to trade Ryan O'Reilly, they need to maximize his value again, which means giving him substantial ice time with top-six linemates so he can put meaningful points on the board.
But if they do that, Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny will have to either drop down to being a third-line center, or Duchene will have to play left wing again — something he doesn't like to do and wouldn't be in the best interests of the team.
The Avs still have only themselves to blame for this being the case, after last week's chaotic situation where they had to swallow their pride and match the two-year, $10 million offer sheet the Calgary Flames ambushed on them for O'Reilly.
One game into O'Reilly's return is a little early to judge how things are going, but it didn't look good in his first contest Sunday in Columbus. No offense to John Mitchell or Milan Hejduk, but those two linemates don't figure to be a good fit to play with O'Reilly. If that continues to prove true, then O'Reilly's trade value could plummet by Feb. 28, 2014 — the earliest the Avs can trade O'Reilly because of offer sheet contract stipulations.
Mitchell is the guy who should probably be the team's third-line center, not O'Reilly. He's a natural center, but the Avs, as they often do, are playing a guy out of position to make room for someone else. Hejduk will go down as an Avalanche stalwart and still a worthy player, but he is 37 years old. His best days are over.