A couple of days ago, our friends over at www.WingsNation.com wrote an article detailing four reasons why an offer sheet from a rival team would make sense for Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou. I hadn’t even considered that Athanasiou remained without a contract to this point in the offseason, so the thought that he’d be a ripe candidate for a predatory offer sheet certainly caught my attention.
— Wings Nation (@thewingsnation) August 19, 2017
The further I delved into Kyle Krische’s piece, the more obvious a case for why a team should attempt to pry the 22-year-old Athanasiou away from the Red Wings with an offer sheet. Detroit is in salary cap hell. They’re almost $4-million above the salary cap. In spite of Athanasiou’s prolific rate production in sparing ice-time, Detroit doesn’t seem sold on the speedy scorer. That’s going to artificially deflate Athanasiou’s market value well below what it should be. Lastly, he’s shown enough to warrant an extended look with skilled players. If the Red Wings won’t grant him as much, perhaps another team should.
Is that team the Vancouver Canucks? Well, they certainly could be that team. They have just under $7.4-million in salary cap space. If we try to account for a Bo Horvat extension at $5-million against the cap, that leaves the Canucks with $2.4-million to play with before they trim their roster in training camp. Using the contract model Hockey-Graphs’ Matt Cane developed, Athanasiou should count for roughly $1.9-million against the cap next season. The compensation for an offer sheet with an annual average value (the number responsible for a player’s cap hit) of $1.9 million would be the team’s 2018 third-round draft pick, and the Canucks currently possess theirs.
There’s no telling what Athanasiou’s camp wants, but at a glance, it looks like the logistics work in the Canucks favour.
Offer sheet compensation just emailed by NHL: pic.twitter.com/jRBSKqLyUl
— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) July 1, 2017
So what kind of a player could the Canucks expect if they executed a successful offer sheet for Athanasiou? It’s hard to say, but there are reasons for optimism. In two seasons with Detroit, Athanasiou has played sparingly in their top six or hardly at all. Last season Athanasiou played just 13:28 a game in 64 contests with the Wings, which, oddly enough, represents a sizable uptick in ice-time from the 9:01 he averaged on a per game basis in the season prior. In 101 games over those two seasons, Athanasiou’s added 43 points (27 goals and 16 assists) in spite of his circumstances, good for a rate of 34.9 points per 82 game season.
Unlike Athanasiou’s on-screen presence, those numbers don’t exactly jump out at you. That’s roughly second-line production, which is good all things considered, but not awe-inspiring by any means. There’s more than meets the eyes with Athanasiou’s first two seasons, though. For starters, all but five of those points came at even strength. And those even strength points came at a pace of 2.16 an hour, good enough to match Henrik Sedin, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Backlund’s.
Better still for a team like the Canucks — one that couldn’t score their way out of a wet paper bag last season — is the disproportionate rate at which Athanasiou found the back of the net. There are only 12 players to best Athanasiou’s even strength goal rate of 1.36 per hour over the last two seasons.
As if often the case with players who profile like Athanasiou, the main drag in Detroit was his defensive play. Whether those concerns are justified or not is another story entirely. The Red Wings have done a poorer job of controlling the flow of shot attempts with Athanasiou on the ice as opposed to off, true. However, the GAR (Goals Above Replacement) model that HockeyData’s Dawson Sprigings developed indicates Athanasiou added one goal above replacement with five-on-five defensive play.
So, what’s there to lose? The Canucks have the cap space and an obvious need to add youth, depth and a little flair to their lineup. Athanasiou isn’t going to reverse the club’s fortunes overnight, but neither is the second or third round pick it might take to pry him from the Red Wings with an offer sheet. If nothing else, Athanasiou could make the Canucks just a little more bearable with his penchant for highlight reel goals and blistering speed. That has to count for something.
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