A few days ago, PHR reported that Detroit Red Wings winger Andreas Athanasiou is receiving interest in signing a one-year deal with the KHL as he and the team struggle to sign a new deal. MLive’s Ansar Khan answers mailbag questions for readers and quickly points out that it is a legitimate possibility that he signs a deal in the KHL, although it’s still more likely he stays in Detroit and signs before training camp begins.
While the Red Wings have handed out some major contracts over the past few years to free agents, the team must take a hardline approach with Athanasiou because they have other young players they must lock up in the future, including Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin. Most hockey players don’t start making the big money until their third contract, so it’s unlikely the team will break the bank to bring Athanasiou back on a big deal.
Khan adds that if Athanasiou does leave for Russia, the team does have several options. While Athanasiou was the team’s second-leading goal scorer with 18 goals in just 64 games, he’s still a developing player, having scored just nine goals in 37 games during his rookie campaign. Many Red Wings players had down years last year and the Red Wings have high hopes to see some of their veterans bounce back this year. Much of Athanasiou’s production could be filled by increased production by Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan and Larkin. The other possibility is that the team inks Thomas Vanek in such a situation, assuming he’d agree to ink a one-year deal and the team can move out some salary to make that deal work.
- In the same mailbag, Khan writes that there is little chance the Red Wings could take advantage of the Pittsburgh Penguins need at center and move out the contracts of either Darren Helm or Frans Nielsen. He writes that both contracts remain too long and too expensive to trade off to a desperate team. Helm’s deal still has four years at $3.85MM per year, while Nielsen’s is even worse with five years remaining at $5.25MM per year.
- Khan adds that 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov would not be a likely candidate to make the team this year as he is still not ready for a full-time NHL role yet. He writes that he believes he needs another full year at the AHL level with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He scored 20 goals and 31 assists for the Griffins last year in 74 games.