As of Friday August 18th, Andreas Athanasiou, yes, your favourite Red Wing, is still without a contract. A brutal series of bad decisions has led the Wings to this crossroad and now the team is left vulnerable with this highly skilled young forward.
Andreas Athanasiou is the perfect candidate for a successful offer sheet.
4. Wings are in Cap Hell
No shocker there. If you’ve followed the team at all you’ve been watching this mismanagement materialize as the years progressed. From the DeKeyser and Abdelkader contracts coming up a bust as early as year one to having six players aged 30+ locked up on deals with at least three more years remaining, this team is a nightmare. Even with Franzen going on LTIR come the start of the season they’re still only working with roughly $1.9M in cap space, which probably isn’t enough to keep AA around for any decent amount of time. Even if the Wings do somehow match, you’ve at least crushed another team into the dust and made their world harder for the next few years. One less team for you to worry about if you’re trying to win.
What’s worse is that these cap issues won’t be resolved anytime soon with the awful deals that have been handed out already. This Athanasiou deal is more important than people realize with Larkin, Mantha, Mrazek, Sheahan and Bertuzzi all needing new deals at the end of next year. But hey, thank god they re-upped Helm for four years last season eh?
3. He Will Come Cheap
We all love to fantasize about some star RFA getting snatched up by another team but the reality is the contracts are too rich and the compensation is way too high for a lot of these guys. In Athanasiou’s case though, neither of these are an issue.
Per offer sheet rules, if the AAV is between $1.82M and $3.65M teams would only give up a second round pick as compensation. If the Athanasiou offer came in at even $3.2M for three years, Detroit likely wouldn’t be able to match. They would have to make a substantial trade (hardly anyone they have is tradeable) just to be able to start the season under the cap if they matched that offer. A second round pick for Athanasiou is a steal any way you look at it and a totally manageable bridge deal for a kid who can slot in effectively to most teams top six and any contenders top nine without issue. Which leads to my next point…
2. He’s Undervalued in Detroit
This is perhaps the most interesting layer to this whole idea. Despite demolishing his teammates in points per 60 minutes, Athanasiou is still used sparingly in the lineup. He’s only averaged just over 11 minutes per game between his first two seasons in the NHL even though his speed, size, explosiveness and smooth hands are exactly the way the game is trending. He barely gets power-play time and even though he’s arguably one of the Wings best penalty killers, they still seem to waste money on obsolete roll players like Miller, Ott, Glendening and Abdelkader who have proven to not even actually be that good at the roles they’re hired to fill.
There is no room for him in the top six as of now and more importantly he wasn’t born in Michigan so we can’t count on him seeing a prosperous new deal anytime soon. Blashill is still playing a system catered to his aging group of veterans that not only misuses all of Athanasiou’s talents but actually suppresses them. He’s a piece that gets sloted in and out, up and down the roster depending on other players underperformance and almost never because he’s ‘earned’ the spot. This just shows he’s an afterthought rather than the guy they should be building around.
When it comes down to it, if the pressure is on and Holland thinks even for a second this hurts his chances at getting Larkin under contract comfortably, I think he let’s AA sign that sheet.
1. He is Needed Elsewhere
Sure, AA doesn’t have a deal yet but is there a demand out there for his skill set? Does anyone team need a cost controlled, young forward who is a natural centre but can also play wing and has incredibly slick hands and is maybe the fastest player in the league?
There are some real possibilities right in the Eastern conference. The Canadiens got skated out of Madison Square Gardens in the first round of the playoffs last year. While Weber will still be a brick on the backend, the addition of Drouin already made that team much quicker. Having a combination of Drouin-Galchenyuk-Athanasiou would make for a deadly fast punch down the middle with lots of ‘experience’ on that roster still to keep the youth on track.
Columbus shocked the hockey world last season and is looking to keep that momentum going as rivals like Washington, Pittsburgh and New York only get older. They have a clear need down the middle and a desire for speed so a kid like AA could inject new life into that mixed bag of youth and gritty vets. Now, this depends on where the team sees Bjorkstrand and Milano next year but this is a quick, cheap fix for helping mend that hole down the middle since the Johansen trade.
Carolina is gearing up to make a push and seem to only be lacking dynamic scoring since potentially fixing their goalie issues this summer. A dynamic, young, speedy forward without losing a defenceman in the exchange sounds pretty enticing.
What about the Predators? The Johansen injury stopped that team in their tracks in the cup finals. With one of the best bluelines in the game, Athanasiou is definitely a huge upgrade to their losses of Fisher, Fiddler and Parenteau this summer. James Neal leaves a big scoring hole in that top six too. Why risk a high priced UFA or lose an asset in a trade?
The fact of the matter is, this kid at that projected price is worth the roll of the dice for nearly all 30 teams in this league.
Yeah, but what are the Chances?
Highly unlikely. The Old Boys Club still reigns on. Just watch players retweet thinkpieces on why you should stand for the National Anthem (looking at you Johnny Hockey) now times that ethos by 1000x and you’ve got NHL GM’s. They’re afraid to step out of line or piss off another GM despite the fact we know most of them are so bad at their jobs they won’t be around to see any retaliation anyways. If NHL GM’s spent even half as much time considering offer sheets as they do absorbing Stan Bowman’s trash we’d have some much better teams much faster.
The chances Ken Holland is kicked upstairs in the next few years is almost a certainty at this pace so if you’re Ron Francis or Jarmo Kekalainen, I’d say throw your inhibitions to the wind and make your push before someone pushes you out. There are only 7 GM’s who were hired before 2010 in their current positions and that number should likely be closer to 5 since it’s perplexing to think Garth Snow and Ken Holland still have jobs.
Offer sheets are as rare as a controlled breakout led by the defence in Detroit so don’t hold your breath. For my sake as a fan, I thank the hockey gods for this. Athanasiou is arguably one of the best players on this team with the highest ceiling and to watch him go to an offer sheet would crush me. He’s one of the few reasons left to get out of your seat or to just sit back and say ‘wow’ without sarcasm on this roster and I’m afraid the Wings are going to fumble this talent right onto another roster.