Andreas Athanasiou is no stranger to trade rumors. The 25-year-old’s name has long been speculated to be on the move, primarily to acquire a defenseman. Now in his fifth season with the Red Wings, Athanasiou put to rest any thoughts of him being an expandable asset with a 30 goal campaign in 2018-19.
Or so we thought.
Wednesday afternoon Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman ignited the discussion once again with a note on Athanasiou in his weekly column. Friedman wrote:
7. Similar situation for the Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou. I can’t say that Steve Yzerman has put him out there, but waiving Jonathan Ericsson indicates the status quo is not acceptable. Athanasiou started slowly in 2018-19, and still ended up with 30 goals. He’s goalless so far. Complicating all of this is it is a contract year, and the last one was a wrestling match.
“Similar situation” in regards to questions about Keven Fiala’s future in Minnesota. The difference between the two, however, is Athanasiou is a proven player in this league, and without question, a much more dynamic talent.
With that said, it has been a slow start for Athanasiou statistically. Still without a goal on the season, but that isn’t necessarily indicative of his play. The London, ON., native is starting to look like his former self, making jaw-dropping plays with his feet, such as the one below:
— Ryan Hana (@RyanHanaWWP) November 2, 2019
Then again, Athanasiou is not only in the middle of his prime, but also in a contract year. A complex situation for a rebuilding Red Wings team. Considering the last contract negotiation turned into a brief holdout, and his offensive production remains inconsistent and streaky, would it be in Detroit’s best interests to move on?
Our writers give their thoughts on the matter:
Athanasiou is undeniably an important member of the current core of the team, but he is also the most expandable.
However, his slow start isn’t justification for a trade in my eyes. It would be more concerning to me if he wasn’t getting chances. He’s had multiple quality scoring chances that I’m positive he will eventually start to cash in on.
The only scenario that would make sense to me is if Detroit receives a first or second round pick in 2020 and/or a high end prospect. But with Athanasiou’s value being extremely low, I don’t see that offer coming to Yzerman. Teams aren’t as desperate in November as they are during the trade deadline; if contract talks seem to be an issue in February, then I wouldn’t mind if Yzerman actively shopped him.
On a team that’s been starved for offense this season, trading away 25-30 goals right now only makes matters worse. While wins don’t matter that much this season, I think Athanasiou is a great piece to hold onto when the roster turnover happens. I’d really like to see a team that has Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno on his line.
My vote would be to keep him, unless there is an offer the team can’t pass up. I’d love to see him back for another 3 or 4 years and continue to be one of the most electrifying players on the team.
The question of whether or not to trade Athanasiou is a difficult one on at face value. He is coming off a 30-goal season and the 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at season end. This time, however, Athanasiou is arbitration-eligible, meaning the Red Wings will have to either re-sign him prior to his hearing, accept their fate at the arbitration hearing, or walk away from the player altogether. While the latter is out of the question, the first two must be considered before a trade is discussed.
If the Red Wings see Athanasiou as a long-term piece, they should sign him to a new contract in the four or five-year range, bringing him to his age-30 season. Any longer than that and he will be in the decline and the team has a depreciating asset at a time they should be in their window to compete. This option allows for cost-certainty and keeps a bonafide top-six winger, 30-goal scorer in the fold. This option should be at least looked at, as a trade of Athanasiou now would be coming at a low point, considering the lack of production he’s had to start the year.
The option that intrigues me the most is the arbitration option. As I previously mentioned, trading Athanasiou now would be selling-low to an extent. He hasn’t produced thus far and teams will be a bit more hesitant to give up premier assets despite his 30-goal campaign last year. What I would do is play this season out until the trade deadline. If the Wings feel the need to continue to fill out their prospect pool (they should), they can put a massive price on Athanasiou, production or not, at the deadline when teams are desperate. Advertise that he is an RFA and they would have team control for another year and set a massive price. If someone is willing to pay, Yzerman should pull the trigger. If not, then keep the asset, lower the price to a more reasonable ask and try again at the draft/in the summer, pre-arbitration hearing. If no trade materializes, the Wings will have Athanasiou in the fold once again next season, hopefully with the youth infusion, and they can take another swing at trading him.
I’m in the trade Athanasiou camp, but get a good haul for him when you do. Don’t settle.
I think in previous years, there was certainly some weight to the Athanasiou trade debate. His effort was heavily criticized, deservedly. His relationship with the coaching staff was never reassuring, either.
Now? They’d be crazy to go their separate ways. Especially if the reason is because of his lack of production to start the season.
Few players have Athanasiou’s combination of elite skill and electrifying skating ability. What type of asset can you possibly acquire that holds the same amount of value and upside? In the past, the target was always a defenseman, seeing as Detroit’s blue-line was nothing but old, replacement level D-men. Athanasiou was never a true expandable asset, because Detroit’s offense was never really that strong, but their desperation for a defenseman was through the roof.
Fast forward to today and the future D-corps looks much different. Filip Hronek is a significant piece to the Red Wings core, Dennis Cholowski is on his way to becoming a top-4 blue-liner, and Moritz Seider is showing great promise. Not to mention Danny DeKeyser’s remarkable bounce back.
In terms of receiving draft capital for Athanasiou’s services, well, that won’t get them very far. With those draft picks, you’re essentially hoping to draft a player who can develop into a core player, which in and of itself is inherently difficult to do. Instead of giving away a good player for a possibly good player, just keep the good player!
Is he untouchable? No. But realistically, they aren’t going to get anything mind-boggling in return either.
The entire discussion is worth having, but ultimately, this is all the by-product of Athanasiou’s early lack of scoring. The goals will eventually start to come his way and this will all look like a galaxy brain take in due time.
On a rebuilding team like the Red Wings, there are very few untouchable players. If a team is not in a “win now” space, then what is the point of keeping skilled players in their prime? By the time the rebuild is complete, these players will be on the tail-end of their prime years. They could still be useful, but not to the extent that they would have been right now.
So in the case of Athanasiou and the rumors swirling around him, is it worth the Red Wings chasing a trade? There’s a yes and no answer here, in my opinion. If the reason for a trade is because of his slow start to the season, a punishment for his lack of production, or simply to shake up the roster to get them going, then the answer should be no. Athanasiou is a speedy, skilled player and he will find his offensive game soon enough. The chances have been there for him, he’s just been unlucky as all hell. Don’t forget that last year he had a slow start to the season too.
However, if the reason for trade is that you can collect a future asset, whether it be in the form of a high 2020 draft pick or a blue chip prospect who will be ready in 2-3 years, then the answer should be yes. Athanasiou is a great player, but he is not a game breaker. He relies heavily on his line mates and would thrive playing wing for a true number 1 center. Not to mention his contract is up for renewal this offseason and, if it’s anything like his last extension, could get ugly.
So where do I stand on this? Athanasiou is not untouchable. If Yzerman can put a deal in place that brings a top prospect or a high draft pick back to Detroit, it could very much be worth it. I would definitely miss the speed and excitement he brings to Red Wings games. If not, it’s not an issue to hold on to him. He will produce just fine and brings some life to the top-6.