You’d think a team that finished 25th overall last year would put a priority on keeping its young players, but I think we’ve all given up on trying to understand what the Red Wings are doing these days.
Darren Dreger reported just a few days ago that Andreas Athanasiou is in deep talks with KHL teams and is very close to bolting to the KHL. Detroit has been unable to strike a deal with the restricted free agent, most likely due to the fact that they have very little cap space to sign him with. However, Detroit’s mistakes can only benefit the rest of the league, as this may be a very rare situation where a team actually does offer sheet a player. So why don’t the Rangers put together an offer sheet for the young Canadian speedster?
At just 23 years old, Athanasiou was one of the few dynamic young forwards on the Red Wings last year. And while he didn’t exactly light the lamp, he put up very respectable production in limited action. Building on his rookie campaign that saw him tally 14 points in 37 games, Athanasiou recorded 18 goals and 11 assists in only 64 games. 29 points in 64 games isn’t a huge deal (a 37-point pace over the full season), but Athanasiou’s still young and has plenty of room to grow. Not to mention, in Detroit he hasn’t seen a lot of time, averaging only a little over 13 minutes a game, with next to no power play time (gotta get Justin Abdelkader out there!). He’s no superstar, but he can provide a lot of offense in a bottom-six role.
But what might be Athanasiou’s most captivating attribute is his lightning-fast speed. Rangers fans are well acquainted with the benefits super-fast speed can have and adding Athanasiou would give the Rangers another explosive offensive weapon in their tool box. One only has to look at how well Michael Grabner performed last season to get an idea of how much of an advantage speed can be. And Athanasiou might be one of the fastest skaters out there. His speed (similar to Grabner’s) allows him to blow by defenders and generate prime breakaway opportunities.
Fans have lamented the loss of Carl Hagelin ever since he was traded and bringing Athanasiou on board will provide that same kind of game-breaking speed in the bottom-six that can disrupt opposing team’s defense.
Combine that with his (most likely) low price and there really isn’t a good reason to not try and sign Athanasiou. Even with his potential and goal-scoring touch, it won’t break the bank to sign him.
Last I heard, but don't quote me LOL, is DET offered 2 x $1.9M. I get player feels he's worth more but no leverage: https://t.co/YSpkGoAR94— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 6, 2017
Athanasiou doesn’t have arbitration rights and his lack of proven scoring (less than two full seasons of games) will keep his cap hit low. Matt Cane’s salary projections have Athanasiou pegged at around $1.908 million, which seems right in line with what you’d expect. He will probably end up with a bit higher salary, but we’re probably looking at an AAV in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. Since the Rangers have a little over $3 million in cap space, an offer sheet of around $2.5 million seems do-able. The Rangers would only have to surrender a second-round draft pick as compensation to the Red Wings (if you’re not familiar with offer sheets to RFA’s, if the original team chooses not to match the offer sheet and retain the player, they will get a draft pick as compensation determined by the AAV of the player in the offer sheet).
A second-round pick isn’t nothing, but it would be a small price to pay to acquire a player like Athanasiou.
Offer sheets are rare nowadays and while one happening is unlikely, it’s fun to speculate on the Rangers going after Athanasiou. He can play center, he’s young, he’s fast and he can score at even strength. With all of that being said, we haven’t seen a successful offer sheet poaching since Dustin Penner in 2007.
It is worth mentioning that CapFriendly lists the Rangers cap space at $3,050,556, but this doesn’t include the team’s 13th forward or account for Jesper Fast missing the beginning of the 2017-18 season. So the Rangers actually have less cap space to work with than $3,050,556. However, the Rangers could still try to negotiate with Athanasiou and make something work. But that could also require the team moving Nick Holden’s contract, which takes up $1.65 million of cap space.