It was gutsy, it was savvy, and it was absolutely the right thing for the Calgary Flames to do.

But not only did the Flames lose out last night on acquiring the top-line centre they’ve been missing for decades, the failed attempt to sign Ryan O’Reilly may also hurt the NHL team’s chances of keeping captain Jarome Iginla.

Had the Colorado Avalanche chosen not to match the two-year, US$10-million offer tabled to O’Reilly by the Flames on Thursday, it would have given Iginla the big, talented centre he’s been so desperately missing here his whole career.

It would also have given him a big reason to stay.

Don’t think for a second that wasn’t a big factor in GM Jay Feaster’s decision to gamble on O’Reilly.

In the next few weeks, the captain will decide either to extend his contract or ask for a trade, and Iginla is clearly debating whether there’s any hope the Flames can improve anytime soon.

Adding a playmaking, 22-year-old centreman, who has already proven he can excel in the NHL, would have been as important a building block as the Flames could add right now or down the road.

Ask any general manager in the league, and they’ll tell you the most precious commodity is a big, skilled middleman — especially one who can play both ends of the ice like O’Reilly.

Opportunities to acquire such players are rare, so full marks to GM Jay Feaster for making the bold and unpopular move amongst GMs.

Unfortunately for the Flames, it failed — as most offer sheets do.

Yes, the price would have been high — a first- and third-rounder this summer — which demonstrates, once again, the club has no intention or desire to blow things up via a rebuild. (After all, it would’ve left the Flames with no draft picks in the first three rounds this summer).

But O’Reilly would have given the club the sort of starting point every team needs no matter where they are in their development: Strength down the middle.

As one rival GM told the Calgary Sun, “First and third is nothing for a valuable commodity like that — you’re dealing with one of the best young two-way centres in the game, and he’s getting better.”