By: Will Burchfield
The Andreas Athanasiou plot continues to thicken.
Will he be a member of the Red Wings this season? Or will he play in the KHL?
The latter is beginning to look like a serious possibility.
Athanasiou, a restricted free agent, has reportedly been weighing offers from various KHL teams, and his agent told MLive on Wednesday night that the KHL is offering far more money than the Wings.
“Andreas is evaluating the pros and cons of all the offers,” agent Darren Ferris. “Andreas loves Detroit and especially the Detroit fans but he has to really consider the serious offers from the KHL he has before him. There is a considerable difference in the amount of money.”
Athanasiou’s decision is expected to come this week, Ferris said.
The Red Wings are in a familiar salary cap crunch, limiting the amount of money they can offer Athanasiou. Athanasiou, meanwhile, isn’t eligible for arbitration, limiting his leverage in negotiations.
That could explain why his agent is making the KHL sound like such an appealing alternative.
Either way, the Wings don’t have much room to up their offer. Their payroll is already about $3 million over the cap. Even accounting for the relief they’ll get by placing Johan Franzen on long-term injured reserve, re-signing Athanasiou would likely push them back over the $75 million threshold.
They’d have to make another move to shed payroll should they reach an agreement with Athanasiou.
The 23-year-old is coming off his entry level deal and is one of Detroit’s most important assets. He tallied 18 goals in 64 games last season and has a knack for making the most of his ice time. He’s a terrific skater in a league that continues to get faster.
Per MLive, GM Ken Holland “has made multiple good-faith offers” based on players with similar resumes. He said he continues to talk with Ferris but noted “the ball is in their court. They have a decision to make.”
It’s no surprise KHL teams are trying to lure Athanasiou away from the NHL with more money. For Athanasiou, that’s the only incentive to play overseas in an inferior league.
Should he play in the KHL, he’d be no closer to unrestricted free agency when he returns to the NHL. The Red Wings would retain his rights.