By: Will Burchfield
Andreas Athanasiou is costing himself money with his ongoing holdout. He’s also costing himself crucial development time in the NHL.
The 23-year-old restricted free agent remains unsigned two weeks into the regular season, a layoff that’s likely to hurt him if and when he returns.
Said Red Wings GM Ken Holland on Sportsnet 590 on Wednesday, “Certainly Andreas is gifted with a great pair of wheels and a good skill level. He can do things at high speed. But you look at lots of players through past years that have missed training camp for a variety of reasons, contracts or injuries, and when you get behind in the NHL it’s a tough league to catch up.”
To that end, Holland has been in frequent contact with Athansiou’s agent Darren Ferris over the past two days, trying to bridge the gap in negotiations. Per multiple reports, the Red Wings have offered Athanasiou a two-year deal worth $1.9 million annually and a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. Athanasiou is holding out for more.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with Darren in the hopes of trying to find a solution. I don’t care how talented you are, you start to get behind — you’ve missed all of training camp, now you start to miss the first three, four weeks of the regular season — it’s hard to get up to speed,” said Holland.
Athanasiou, one of the Red Wings’ best young players and an important part of their future, is weighing more lucrative offers from the KHL. He’s also exploring things in Switzerland, a common refuge for NHLers in holdouts.
But with every day that goes by, the opportunity cost grows steeper.
“If we don’t find a contract solution then Darren and Andreas have to make a decision what they’re doing. Certainly going over to Switzerland and practicing with a team every day is a lot better than being in Toronto and trying to find ice on your own and things like that,” said Holland.
He added, “As we go along every day it becomes more and more critical to try to find a solution. But at the same time, it has to be a solution that he feels good about and that we feel good about.”
The Red Wings have based their offers to Athanasiou on contracts for comparable players, such as the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson and the Maple Leafs’ Connor Brown. They don’t have the cap room to go any higher, and probably wouldn’t regardless. Holland believes strongly the Wings have already offered Athanasiou fair market value.
As to whether he’s optimistic that the two sides will reach an agreement soon, Holland couldn’t say.
“I’ve been in it so long that I don’t really handicap and gauge. You either have a contract or you don’t,” he said. “Sometimes you’re in these things and you think, ‘Well, I have a chance,’ and then it goes the other way. So I don’t really know.
“Certainly I’d love to add Andreas to our team here in the near future, but business is business. I don’t really handicap it. I can’t tell you if I’m pessimistic or optimistic, it’s just a situation that I try to deal with on an everyday basis.”
Until a solution presents itself, Holland said, “We’ll go on without him.”