The Detroit Red Wings have been mismanaged into salary cap hell – populated by teams kissing the ceiling with a snowball’s chance in there of making the playoffs. Hence, forward Andreas Athanasiou is looking at one of those ‘sorry kid, we’ll get you next time’ RFA contracts.
The only response for a 23-year-old player being forced to atone for management’s sins is leverage, and Athanasiou doesn’t have much of it: No arbitration rights and no hope for an offer sheet, because the NHL is why.
So Athanasiou and his reps have done what other restricted free agents in his situation have done, which is gin up a KHL counteroffer in an attempt to get the gears turning on the contract they want.
Vancouver 1130 AM sports anchor Rick Dhaliwal reports that “Red Wings RFA F Andreas Athanasiou could be signing in Russia soon. Talks with Red Wings going nowhere.” Craig Custance of The Athletic quotes Athanasiou’s agent as saying, “I have received a considerable offer that is significant,” which we assume is much the same thing as receiving a significant offer that’s considerable.
We’ve seen players from Darcy Kuemper to Torey Krug have rubles thrown their way during contentious contract talks, and it all comes back to one basic question: Would these players actually leave for Russia for a season if their teams keep low-balling them?
In Athanasiou’s case, he would get significantly more money – his entry-level deal paid him $628,333 against the cap – and likely more ice time, as he was limited to 13:28 per game last season in scoring 18 goals and 29 points.
(No, that usage vs. production didn’t make sense to us either. It’s a speed league, he’s blazing, and Jeff Blashill should have played him more.)
Yet as Custance notes, if Athanasiou leaves, he’s still a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights and under the Red Wings’ thumb. “Players typically like to keep the clock moving on their service time towards unrestricted free agency,” he writes, and leaving for the KHL stalls that out.
We’d be shocked if this wasn’t posturing, shocked if Athanasiou plays in the KHL next season, shocked if he’s not back with the Red Wings as a dollar amount that’s friendlier to the team. But then we’re also shocked that a 33-win team has $78 million on its cap for next season, so really anything’s possible.
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