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.