The Runner Sports

The Wings Don’t have AA and that’s OK

The 2017-2018 NHL season is upon us and people know for better or worse what their teams are going to look like on opening days. To the surprise of a lot of people there is one name missing from Detroit’s line up that everyone thought that would be there. Andreas Athanasiou and the Red Wings seem to have hit a stand-off on contract negation and he will not be playing the first regular season game at the Little Caesar’s Arena, and no one knows if he’ll be playing at all this season.

Athanasiou and the Red Wings have been in negations for most of the off-season. He has been asking for 2.5 million per year, the Wings have offered him a 2 year contract worth 1.9 million a season. They also offered a one year contract worth 1.25 million. After this year he would have arbitration rights and could look at other offers. The Wings are also offering him a chance to play in the NHL because as a restricted free agent if he doesn’t sign with Detroit or convince them to trade him he doesn’t get to play in the NHL.

The Canadian born forward has played in 101 NHL games. In those games he has scored 27 goals, out of those 27 goals 18 of them were last season. When compared to other contracts of similar players Detroit’s offer is fair. Sam Bennet, who has 31 goals in 159 games, signed a two-year 1.95 million deal with Calgary. Vancouver and Sven Baertschi made a two-year $1.85 million deal after he played 69 games and scored 15 goals. So what Detroit is offering isn’t outrageous, and with one of the deals he’d be able to renegotiate after a year, and if he had a big season he’d have more power at the table. He has the potential for a big season, but it could also just be potential. n.

Athanasiou has only played one full NHL season. He is an exciting player. He is fast and flashy and his goals are fun to watch. Some people have compared some of his shots to Pavel Datsyuk, but he is not Datsyuk yet. If he were to play this season it would be his sophomore season and the term sophomore slump exists for a reason. Other teams are going to know his moves and going to be watching him.

Detroit doesn’t have to look hard to find an example of a sophomore slumping. Dylan Larkin also had a freshman season that passed all expectations. During his first season he had 23 goals and 22 assists, but during his second season it fell to 17 goals and 15 assists. Other teams watch players and by the time they are in their second season they know how to stop them. Athanasiou may go through a similar season. Detroit has made big foolish contracts before that fans can’t stop complaining about. Maybe this stand-off is proof that they have learned from their mistakes and is an attempt to not end up in a cap situation like they are currently in.

Larkin and Athansiou have more in common then just being young forwards with explosive first seasons. They both had their ice team reduced last season because of a lack of defensive play. They both worked at it and were given more time, but the difference between them is there have been so many reports that Larkin spent the off-season still working at where he is weak. Athanasiou wasn’t even able to come to training camp and all anyone has been able to say about him during the off-season is how much money he is asking for. Of course he deserves to get paid to do what he does, but he isn’t a perfect player and he still has developing to do, which doesn’t seem to be a fact that his team is considering during talks.

They aren’t the same person, but they are in similar positions. Larkin handled it better. Detroit is starting a rebuild and the team needs players that are willing to work on their weak points and develop with other young players in hopes of creating a team that can be competitive in the next few years. Athanasiou missed training camp and he missed the preseason. That means he missed a chance to play with players who may be the future of Detroit.

Could Detroit be improved by being able to include Athanasiou? Yes. Does Detroit need Athanasiou? I don’t think so. There are a lot of young players that want to be on the Red Wings. He is fun to watch and is pretty much unstoppable when he is on a breakaway, but hockey is more than breakaways. I would honestly rather see someone who wants to be part of the team be given a spot, especially during a rebuild.

There is no way of knowing what will happen to Athanasiou if he doesn’t sign with Detroit. While he is a restricted free agent he can’t play with any other NHL team. He has said that he was getting offers from the KHL in Russia, but that season has already started. Besides, the KHL is more focused on flashy hockey that can capture fan’s attention, it’s the kind of hockey that he can already play, and really won’t allow him to gain experience on the NHL level.

This year he does have the option of playing in the Olympics for team Canada, however the Olympics isn’t an all year affair and because of a decision made by the NHL this year no NHL player will be playing in the Olympics so he won’t be working on the skills he’ll need in the NHL.

The KHL and Olympics might be options for Athanasiou, but they are only temporary solutions. He will be in the same exact position as a restricted free agent next year as he is this year, only he will be missing a year of NHL experience. His future with the Wings may be getting dimmer and dimmer. Ken Holland has said that he doesn’t see anything happening soon. More telling Athanasiou bobble head night was replaced with Luke Glendening bobble head night. These are not good signs for people who were hoping to see Athanasiou wearing the winged wheel.

Allison Barbersek
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Allison Barbersek

Writer at The Runner Sports
I love animals and hockey, espeically the wings. I live in the Great Lakes Bay Area of Michigan.
Allison Barbersek
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