The NHL season is underway and there’s still no sign of Andreas Athanasiou in Detroit.
The Red Wings and the restricted free agent still haven’t come to terms on a contract extension, which is unfortunate for both sides.
Athanasiou has been skating with HC Lugano over in Switzerland over the last few days. According to The Hockey News, there’s a lot of interest from Swiss League clubs and Omsk in the KHL has reportedly offered him $2.5 million this season.
One of the benefits to playing in Europe in 2017-18, is that he could suit up for Canada at the upcoming Olympics. He might never get an opportunity like that again.
Regardless of what the player, team and agent (Darren Ferris) decide, it’s time for them to make a decision on Athanasiou’s short-term playing future.
It’s clear that the young winger is serious about getting the right dollar amount he feels he deserves (if he’s bluffing, he’s a crazy-good bluffer), but it’s time for his camp to decide what his next move is going to be.
In recent years, players like P.K. Subban and Johnny Gaudreau have missed training camp and regular season games during holdouts. Even though they were around the same age as Athanasiou is now, they were still more established in the NHL than he is at this point.
Subban gave in to what Montreal was offering him back in 2013, as he accepted a bridge deal. Despite missing training camp and a couple of games, he went on to win the Norris Trophy that year.
As for Gaudreau, he held out last season, got a long-term deal, but saw his production dip quite a bit (he had 30 goals and 78 points in 79 games two years ago, and 18 goals and 61 points in 72 games in 2016-17).
Athanasiou is nowhere near as accomplished as those two players. Still, his numbers would indicate that there is some intriguing upside there. The 23-year-old had 18 goals and 29 points in 64 games with Detroit last season. He also has a ton of speed, which is an asset, especially in today’s NHL.
The Red Wings may hold firm with their current offer, but last time I checked, their roster isn’t loaded with offensive superstars. After all, they missed the playoffs in 2017, so they can use all the help they can get.
The other way they can parlay Athanasiou into immediate help is by trading him to another team in the league. Even though his value isn’t sky-high right now, there will be teams interested in his services for the reasons mentioned above (Montreal, Ottawa and Los Angeles have all reportedly shown interest).
So either Detroit forks out the money Athanasiou wants, they trade him away, or they decide to let him suit up in Europe (that doesn’t benefit them at all). Whatever the decision is, it’s time for both parties to put this story behind them.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.
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