Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster says the team performed due diligence before signing Colorado forward Ryan O'Reilly to an offer sheet.
The Flames released a statement Friday afternoon after Rogers Sportsnet reported that O'Reilly would have been placed on waivers if the Avalanche hadn't matched Calgary's offer sheet.
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 an unacceptable result for any team, but particularly devastating to an aging Flames squad struggling to get into the Western Conference playoff picture.
According to the NHL's collective agreement, O'Reilly would have had to clear waivers because he played two games in Russia's KHL after the start of the NHL season.
But Feaster said in a statement that the team did its research before drafting the offer sheet for O'Reilly, who led Colorado in scoring 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.
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, allowing teams re-signing their own restricted free agents to avoid the waiver process, which means Colorado won't risk losing O'Reilly by matching the offer sheet.
There doesn't appear to be any protection for a team signing a free agent from another club, but Feaster said in the statement 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 himself is now a moot point since Colorado matched the offer sheet.
The NHL declined to clarify whether O'Reilly would have had to clear waivers if the Avalanche refused to 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."
Meanwhile, in a move with significantly less drama, the Flames recalled right-winger Brian McGrattan from the Abbotsford Heat on Friday and reassigned Akim Aliu to the American Hockey League affiliate.
Calgary acquired McGrattan on Thursday in a trade with Nashville. The Flames gave up defenceman Joe Piskula in the deal.
McGrattan, who played 34 games for Calgary in the 2009-10 campaign, played two games with the Predators and six games with AHL Milwaukee this season.
Aliu played two games for the Flames and registered 10 penalty minutes.