The stalemate between the Detroit Red Wings and restricted free agent Andreas Athansious has finally come to an end, per Bob Mckenzie. Agreeing to a one-year contract for the 2017-18 season, Athanasious will now return to the Red Wings after a very lengthy contract dispute that stretched into the start of the NHL’s regular season. The deal comes with a cap hit of $1.387 million after the Red Wings originally offered $1.25 million during the offseason and Athanasiou asked for $2.5 million from the team.
DET and RFA forward Andreas Athanasiou have agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $1.387M.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 20, 2017
Unfortunately for both sides, the one-year term likely means a future contract dispute could be in the cards if both sides fail to find common ground next offseason, especially if the Red Wings fail to clear significant cap space from their current roster prior to next offseason.
It’s no secret that the Red Wings are in unfamiliar territory as they’re finding themselves in cap trouble with one of the NHL’s most underwhelming rosters. Despite currently holding a 4-3 record and sitting in 15th place in the NHL – good for the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference – it’s unlikely that the Red Wings make the playoffs this year. This down period for the Red Wings is the result of unsuccessful drafting, poor contract management and underperforming from many players on the roster. The Red Wings will also likely be forced to make a trade to comply with the salary cap.
Athanasiou a Bright Spot in Detroit
Despite this, the Red Wings still have some of the NHL’s most exciting young players on their roster in Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and of course, Athanasiou. The development of Athanasiou with the NHL roster is of the utmost importance for the Red Wings, as it is for all NHL prospects. While the deal comes with only a one-year term, it’s essentially an opportunity for the Red Wings to continue developing their young prospect while pushing the contract discussions down the road for the time being.
In 2016-17, the London, Ontario-born Athanasiou scored 18 goals and 29 points in 64 games. While those may not be the most impressive totals in the world, it’s important to note that it was only Athanasiou’s second season with the team, scoring nine goals and 14 points in 37 games in his first season the previous year. It takes time for players to find their stride in the NHL, and while Athanasiou wasn’t scoring goals or recording points every single game, anybody who’s watched him play has seen what he’s capable of.
From his big 6-foot-2 frame to his deceptive speed and ability to undress a defense in a variety of ways, Athanasiou is a pleasure to watch on the ice. At this point in his development, he has the potential to take the next step and have a breakout season – that wasn’t going to happen while he was skating in Switzerland by himself, looking for a contract from a Swiss team.
Bob McKenzie Weighing In
The contract dispute was well-documented over the offseason with Bob McKenzie discussing the topic Thursday, highlighting the Dec. 1 deadline to get a contract signed.
“It can only go to Dec. 1 because if he’s not signed by then, he’s out of the NHL for this season, but here’s the latest development,” McKenzie said. “The Detroit Red Wings had offered Athanasiou a two-year deal at $1.9 million per year. And now that the season is on and the Red Wings are in LTIR situation, they can no longer give that deal to Andreas Athanasiou, so if Athanasiou is going to sign with the Red Wings, it’s likely going to be a one-year deal now at a shade more than the $1.25 million that the Red Wings were offering him in the summer.
McKenzie didn’t mince words either when talking about the frustrations that both sides have been experiencing through this process.
“There is an incredibly high level of exasperation on both sides, from the Red Wings and Athanasiou. This thing is either going to get done here in the next day or so, or it’s likely he’s going to sign to play in Europe and who knows when or if he’ll be back in the Red Wing lineup.”
Now that Athanasiou is under contract with the Red Wings it will be interesting to see if he can parlay his one-year deal into a successful campaign worthy of a long-term commitment with a significant raise next offseason.