December 29: The Kings have officially announced the Athanasiou contract, which comes in at the one-year, $1.2MM terms that were reported. The speedy forward will be a restricted free agent again when the deal expires.
December 28: The Los Angeles Kings are getting faster. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that Andreas Athanasiou is expected to sign a one-year deal with the Kings, giving him a place to play with training camp just a few days away. Friedman adds the salary is expected to be around $1.2MM.
Athanasiou, 26, is one of the most exciting and yet frustrating players in the NHL, all at the same time. The fourth-round pick has incredible speed and skill, which resulted in a 30-goal season during the 2018-19 campaign, but too often tries to do it all himself or fails to capitalize on the talents of his linemates. Last season, his fifth with the Detroit Red Wings, he scored just ten goals and 24 points and was a -45 before a midseason trade took him to the Edmonton Oilers. The hope was that his speed could fit in beside Connor McDavid, but Athanasiou quickly found himself pushed down the Oilers lineup and he recorded just two points in 13 games for the team.
In the offseason, Edmonton decided to not even extend Athanasiou a qualifying offer, despite trading two second-round picks (and Sam Gagner) for him just a few months earlier. That decision was because of the $3MM salary the offer would have carried, but it still was a surprising move given the draft capital they had shelled out to acquire him. Now, after a long wait, Athanasiou will finally get a chance to prove that he can still be an effective weapon at the NHL level.
There’s no doubt that he can score, but it’s hard to know exactly how to best maximize Athanasiou’s talent. In Los Angeles, it seems unlikely that he would be a good fit beside slower veteran names like Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter, but perhaps he could form a lightning-fast trio with Adrian Kempe and Austin Wagner. No matter where he fits in, it’s a worthwhile gamble for a team looking to turn things around after a few poor seasons.
Like some of the other late-offseason signings, Athanasiou also represents a potential deadline trade chip. If he receives an opportunity on the powerplay or starts the season hot, maybe the Kings can cash in for a couple of draft picks of their own.