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Red Wings updates: Meeting with Athanasiou, Kronwall on the mend

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If nothing else, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland will fly, er, go the extra mile to try to settle things with RFA Andreas Athanasiou.

Holland flew to Toronto for a face-to-face meeting with Athanasiou on Saturday, according to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press.

St. James passes along some reasonably optimistic updates from Athanasiou’s camp and also reports that the two sides have discussed deals that would last either one or two years. (The two-year version would carry a $1.9 million cap hit, according to St. James. This would make some sense in that it would parallel what the Calgary Flames gave Sam Bennett.)

There’s clearly still some work to do, especially with the KHL leering as at least a minor threat, yet this seems to be fairly positive.

The overall picture for the Red Wings is gloomy heading into 2017-18, however, because of updates like these.

It’s good that Jeff Blashill isn’t too concerned about Niklas Kronwall, although you must wonder if there’s a hint of resignation in such an update.

Sad or at least halfway-negative updates may simply be a way of life for the Red Wings when it comes to the health of Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson.

Actually, one cannot help but wonder if the Kronwall and Athanasiou scenarios could even blend together.

What if, say, the Red Wings put Kronwall on LTIR, thus opening up some extra space to squeeze Athanasiou under the cap? Kronwall’s $4.75M cap hit runs for two more seasons, and the impression is that he’s legitimately not so healthy.

The counterpoints are pretty natural, especially if the Red Wings really aren’t accepting the likely reality that they’re not really a viable playoff team any longer. If they continue to fight that probability, then they’d want Kronwall to nurse a shaky defensive unit to a slightly higher level, even if it means dealing with him being in and out of the lineup for health reasons.

If nothing else, it would be refreshing to see the Red Wings apply some creative thinking to their many issues, as the status quo seems pretty glum at times.

At least there’s that shiny new arena …

Report: No contract, no Blue Jackets camp for Josh Anderson

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Josh Anderson‘s agent Darren Ferris told The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (subscription required) that the RFA forward will not attend Columbus Blue Jackets training camp if he isn’t signed to a new contract.

Interestingly, Ferris noted to Portzline that Anderson, 23, could skate with a pro team in Switzerland if a deal continues to be on hold.

The Blue Jackets are really starting to get into gear with training camp on Thursday and Friday, while their first preseason game is scheduled for Sept. 19 (a week from tomorrow). That’s not a ton of time for a process that lacked “urgency,” according to what Ferris told Portzline.

Pondering Anderson’s value

We’ve seen some recent RFA impasses break up lately, with Sam Bennett receiving a deal that carries an AAV just under $2 million while Anthony Duclair will carry a $1.2M cap hit for a season.

It’s unclear what Columbus is offering and it’s also unclear what Anderson wants as far as years or dollars are concerned.

As a fourth-rounder (95th overall in 2012), he lacks the pedigree of a guy like Bennett. Anderson didn’t do much in the 18 games he spent with Columbus between 2014-15 and 2015-16, but last season was quite the breakthrough.

In 78 games, Anderson generated 17 goals and 12 assists for 29 points while totaling 89 penalty minutes. He also scored a goal and an assist in five postseason games. To his credit, Anderson managed solid numbers with minimal time on the Blue Jackets’ outstanding power play.

Looking at his work at other levels, it’s clear that he figures to focus on scoring goals, although Anderson isn’t afraid to “mix it up.” His 17 goals came on 119 shots on goal, good for a 14.3 shooting percentage, so he’d probably need to fire the puck more often in the future to continue to regularly hit 15-20 goals.

Fansided’s Tony Mazziotti even makes a case for some top-line duty for Anderson, so he certainly has his proponents.

There’s value in a player like that, particularly since there’s conceivably some room to grow at age 23. The question, for both sides, is “How much?” The Blue Jackets boast almost $8M in cap space according to Cap Friendly, so this is a matter of value, although Columbus’ internal budget isn’t necessarily aiming for the cap ceiling.

If all of this uncertainty leaves Blue Jackets fans unsettled, take heart; at least there are “dad jokes.”

Flames sign Bennett to two-year bridge deal

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Sam Bennett, among the most notable names on the list of remaining restricted free agents, is now under contract.

The Flames announced on Wednesday that they had re-signed the 21-year-old center to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $1.95 million.

That’s certainly an affordable price for a Flames team that had about $7.1 million in cap space before this contract, according to CapFriendly.

The Flames have added to their defense this offseason, building a strong top-four group on the blue line, and looked to upgrade their goaltending by adding Mike Smith and Eddie Lack.

These moves would strongly suggest this organization feels it’s in a window to win now, and it still has about $5.2 million in cap space to perhaps make another addition to their lineup, if they choose.

The fourth overall pick in 2014, Bennett made his NHL at the end of the 2014-15 regular season and then turned heads in the opening round of the playoffs with an impressive showing for such a young player — remember, he was only 18 years old at the time — against the Vancouver Canucks.

But after scoring 18 goals and 36 points during his first full season in 2015-16, Bennett’s numbers dropped off this past campaign with only 13 goals and 26 points.

General manager Brad Treliving stressed to Sportsnet 960 the importance of getting Bennett signed prior to training camp.

“I think history has shown that missing time — or people that don’t get (to training camp) on time — usually it’s not a good thing,” said Treliving, before the deal was announced. “To get ready for an NHL season is difficult. You’ve got to get the reps. You’ve got to get playing at NHL pace. You’ve got to get doing it every day prior to the start of the season.”

This new contract, a bridge deal, puts the onus on the highly touted and talented Bennett to now go out and prove himself over the next two years.

Report: Athanasiou KHL rumors persist, Sam Bennett could go overseas too

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TSN’s Darren Dreger provided two updates that sound pretty unsettling for the Detroit Red Wings and Calgary Flames when it comes to their respective negotiations with RFAs Andreas Athanasiou and Sam Bennett respectively.

Athanasiou, 23, has seen his name float around in KHL rumors already this summer, in part because the Red Wings are in such a tight cap situation.

Well, the bad news is that the rumblings are only growing stronger that he might go overseas, according to Dreger.

Ouch. Dreger’s report gets backup about the “probability” of a departure to the KHL here by the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James.

Interestingly, Dreger also reports that Bennett is considering going overseas – though not necessarily to the KHL, although that might be the ideal option – because there’s a “sizable gap” between what Bennett and the Flames see as an appropriate deal.

There are some differences between the two players. Athanasiou is 23 and was a fourth-rounder; Bennett is 21 and was the fourth overall pick in 2014.

Even so, they’re both RFAs without a ton of leverage, and they likely believe that modest numbers set in 2016-17 are only the tip of the iceberg for their skill-sets.

As a fun coincidence, each player is from Ontario. This is a generalization, but in many situations, it’s more common for an international player to ponder going overseas – sometimes close to their birthplaces – when contract talks stall. This happens less frequently with North American players in the very beginning of their primes, at least when they have the choice.

In the case of Bennett in particular, such a contract might be modeled a lot like lockout-era deals, where he can get released from a pact if he comes to terms with the Flames.

For the Red Wings, they risk losing a speedy, if a bit raw, talent on a roster that could use more youthful optimism. The Flames have their sights set higher, so it would sting to be without Bennett, especially if he takes a much-anticipated leap forward to become a true difference-maker.

Stay tuned.

Horvat, Pastrnak highlight list of remaining restricted free agents

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The dog days of August are over. The hockey world is ramping up for NHL training camp.

Seems like a perfect time to take a look at the key remaining restricted free agents, per CapFriendly, still looking to sign contracts for the upcoming season.

Josh Anderson, Blue Jackets:

Josh Anderson remains the lone restricted free agent for the Blue Jackets to sign, after they were able to get Alexander Wennberg under contract on Friday. Anderson, 23, finished his first full NHL season — the final year of his entry-level deal — with 17 goals and 29 points. After the Wennberg deal, the Blue Jackets have $7.987 million in cap space. According to the Columbus Dispatch, there had been a report stating Anderson would skate with a team in Switzerland if a deal with Columbus was not reached before training camp.

More from the Dispatch:

His agent, Darren Ferris, said in a text message that he had been misquoted and that Anderson is not set to practice in the Swiss National League.

“That is not the plan at this time,” Ferris said. “It is just an option.”

Earlier Friday, Kekalainen said he wasn’t worried about Anderson’s situation.

“He can skate wherever he wants,” Kekalainen said. “We just want him here when training camp starts, that’s all.”

Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings:

Andreas Athanasiou is one of the promising young players for a Red Wings team that finished out of the playoffs last season. He scored 18 goals and 29 points in the final year of his entry-level contract. While Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has said the organization has made numerous offers to the 23-year-old forward, Athanasiou is, according to his agent, considering offers from the KHL. There were indications a couple of weeks ago that signing in Russia was a possibility.

“Andreas is evaluating the pros and cons of all the offers,” his agent Darren Ferris recently told MLive.com. “Andreas loves Detroit and especially the Detroit fans but he has to really consider the serious offers from the KHL he has before him. There is a considerable difference in the amount of money.”

Sam Bennett, Flames:

Sam Bennett garnered headlines during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, as he entered the league at just 18 years of age. After a 36-point 2015-16 campaign, his first full season in the NHL, Bennett’s production dipped this past season with only 13 goals and 26 points. The Flames have about $7.165 million in cap space, so they certainly have room to get something done, with Eric Francis of Postmedia pointing out that the salary range for comparable contracts for Bennett should be about $2.5 to $3 million per year. With camp approaching, general manager Brad Treliving remained confident a deal would get done.

Marcus Foligno, Wild:

The Wild acquired Marcus Foligno, as well as Tyler Ennis, from the Buffalo Sabres at the end of June. However, they still haven’t signed the 26-year-old Foligno, who scored a career high 13 goals for Buffalo last season. Minnesota has only $2.14 million in available cap space. While he waits for his new contract, the physical forward has made his plans known for this upcoming season, aiming to score 20 goals in his first year with the Wild.

Bo Horvat, Canucks:

Bo Horvat led the Canucks in points last season — the final year of his entry-level contract. He’s due for a sizable raise, and the Canucks, after a busy summer for them, have about $5.3 million in cap space with Horvat still to sign. The biggest question now is whether a new contract will be long-term, or a bridge deal? Jason Botchford of The Province told TSN Radio that he heard Horvat’s new contract is a bridge deal. Team president Trevor Linden, a few hours later, told Ed Willes of The Province that there was “nothing at all” to that.

Petteri Lindbohm, Blues:

The Blues currently have one remaining restricted free agent to get signed for the upcoming season. That would be defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, who has split each of the last three seasons between the Blues and their former AHL affiliate in Chicago. Cracking the lineup full-time next season may be a tall order, given the club’s top-four defensemen are basically set, with plenty of competition for bottom-six and depth roles. Lindbohm’s three-year entry-level deal had an annual average value of $700,000.

David Pastrnak, Bruins:

Negotiations between the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp were expected to continue Friday, according to the Boston Herald, with Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry, ready to make his client’s case for an eight-year deal. That left Bruins president Cam Neely to discuss the possible impact Leon Draisaitl‘s recently signed eight-year contract in Edmonton may have on these specific negotiations with Pastrnak. Having turned 21 years old in May, Pastrnak enjoyed an impressive offensive surge last season with 34 goals and 70 points.

Robbie Russo, Red Wings:

Robbie Russo, originally a New York Islanders draft pick, has spent the majority of his time in the Red Wings organization with its AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. He’s been productive there, scoring seven goals and 32 points last season on a team that won the Calder Cup. He did break into the Red Wings lineup last season, appearing in 19 games without registering a point. The Red Wings have a pair of RFAs — Russo and Athanasiou — to get signed, but they have salary cap issues. Specifically, they are about $3.02 million over the cap.

Damon Severson, Devils:

Playing in his third NHL season, 23-year-old defenseman Damon Severson reached career highs in games played (80), assists (28), and points (31), emerging as a key piece on their blue line. While the contract situation has dragged into September, NJ Advance Media’s Chris Ryan recently told fans that he doesn’t anticipate it will continue into camp.

“The Devils and Severson have plenty of options for a contract, and they simply haven’t come to an agreement at this point,” Ryan wrote. “Worst case, the Devils and Severson will sign a one-year deal and do this all again next offseason, when Severson would be arbitration eligible. But expect for this to be resolved before camp opens.”

Tyler Wotherspoon, Flames:

Tyler Wotherspoon has been with the Flames organization since the 2011 NHL Draft, but has yet to emerge as a full-time player on their roster. Since turning professional, he has split each of the last four seasons between the NHL club and its minor league affiliate. He is one of two remaining RFAs for the Flames, after the club inked Brett Kulak. Calgary is already set with its top-four defensemen, while Michael Stone should fit in as the No. 5 blue liner. Matt Bartkowski is also on the roster, while Kulak played 21 games for the Flames last season to Wotherspoon’s four. Right now, it would seem the highest priority for Calgary is to get Sam Bennett signed.

Nikita Zadorov, Avalanche:

A recent report from Adrian Dater of BSN Denver stated that Nikita Zadorov and the Avalanche are about $500,000 apart, with the 22-year-old defenseman seeking about $2.5 million annually. Earlier this summer, it was reported that Zadorov had a “mutual agreement” with a club in the KHL but was waiting to receive a better offer from Colorado, which has only three defensemen under contract for the upcoming season.

*All financial figures courtesy CapFriendly.