PHOTO CREDIT: JAMES GUILLORY-USA TODAY SPORTS
It was reported on Tuesday morning – however credible the rumour – that Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou is dangerously close to heading overseas for a year in the KHL.
From all angles, it’s a smart move for the skater.
Athanasiou finished the 2016-17 season with a whopping 18 goals in 64 regular season games played, doing so with just over 13 minutes of ice time logged per game.
Remarkably enough, that came with a decreased shooting percentage in relation to the year prior, where Athanasiou put up nine goals in 37 games riding on a 17% accuracy rate; last year, he only found the mark on 15 percent of his recorded shots on goal, suggesting that at the very least he’ll be a high-accuracy shooter for the duration of his prime career years.
Although his playmaking lacks much punch – he put up just 29 total points despite logging 18 goals – and his possession metrics aren’t much to write home about, a goal scorer would get immediate attention from the Olympic team this coming year if he were to head to Russia. He’ll get a decent salary in the KHL, still retain negotiating rights to return to Detroit when the year is over, and likely get strong consideration from the Canadian Olympic team to participate in the games this coming winter.
Obviously, no player truly wants to sour a relationship with both his team and his fanbase by bolting for a year, so the happiest course of action is to sign with Detroit.
If he’s considering a move overseas for a year, though, it seems likely that the relationship there has already been damaged significantly. The team can’t afford him, and they haven’t done much of anything to change that – which he has to have noticed.
Which begs the question: why haven’t other teams submitted an offer sheet?
The boogeyman that is offer sheeting in the NHL has become a lost art.
Looking back through the years, offer sheets have generally been used for players who were high commodities, but teams were hesitant to pull the trigger on for pricier deals.
The last offer sheet signed, though, was in 2013. That offer sheet, which was matched by the Colorado Avalanche for Ryan O’Reilly, seems to have killed the practice around the league.
There’s this perception of an inherent fear among league executives that, if a general manager slips an offer sheet to a star player while his team is deep in negotiations, the two clubs will never be able to negotiate on good terms again. There seems to be a sense of betrayal of trust in the art of the offer sheet; if you try to snatch a player out from under his club’s nose, they won’t feel inclined to help you out of a bind ever again. They won’t forget, and it will cost you dearly.
In some cases, that may be true. After all, the Edmonton Oilers would have been unable to match an offer sheet for Leon Draisaitl without finding themselves in a significant bind, and they would have almost certainly tried to make the club that sent one his way pay down the line.
In this situation, though, it’s hard to imagine that will be the case.
Athanasiou is a top-line producer when it comes to goal rates and shooting frequency. He’s an excellent shot generator, and it translates well; he finished the 2016-17 campaign second in goals scored on the Red Wings despite finishing with nearly 20 games in hand on the year.
If the Red Wings have been currently unable to get something done with that kind of player, there are really only two reasons. Either they refuse to pay market value for his available production, or the player isn’t interested in remaining there unless he’s given significant (read: bloated) financial incentive to remain there.
It seems more likely that the first situation is the problem – but in both situations, it seems easy enough for another team to take a stab.
Somewhere in there, the relationship between the player and the team has soured.
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that Athanasiou’s agent Darren Ferris went on record (via text) suggesting that ‘because of the huge disparity, the KHL has moved to more of a probability at this time.”
For the Red Wings, that sounds like something has taken a turn for the worse. If another team goes ahead and sends an offer sheet his way, they get compensation for any salary above $1,295,571 – which, given his 18-goal season, seems reasonable to assume the player will get. Anything less than that, and it’s unlikely that Athanasiou would sign the offer sheet anyway.
The lowest level of compensation that the Red Wings can get is a third-round pick, which is a decent return for a player who seems like he wants to bolt as it is.
With the kind of relationship suggested between the player and the team, it’s hard to imagine the Red Wings holding too much of a grudge if another team takes a stab at an offer sheet – and if they have a change of heart and match any market-value offer sheet given, then Athanasiou gets his money anyway.
Fans always dream of their teams offer-sheeting desirable players, particularly when negotiations drag out longer than expected.
Usually, it seems like nothing more than a pipe dream. But when a player is openly suggesting a move to Europe, it’s baffling why no one is willing to pull the trigger.