Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports - James Guillory

The Canucks Should Offer Sheet Andreas Athanasiou

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.

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.

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.

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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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    • Forward Thinker

      I agree. They could likely trade for him however and the price may not be high. The rights to Trayamkin or Subban plus a fifth or sixth might do it.

    • Killer Marmot

      The offer sheet exists to ensure that RFAs get fair offers, and to protect the owners against allegations of anti-trust. Their mere existence may well accomplish much of that, even if they are not exercised often.

      • If you explicitly agree to something like offer sheets, and then tacitly agree to never use them, that’s actually better evidence in favour of collusion than it is protection against anti-trust charges.

        • Killer Marmot

          In 205, three dozen offer sheets were presented, although they are rarely signed by the player, and then they are almost always matched by the original club. Obviously, then, this “tacit agreement” isn’t working.

          The reason that offer sheet is not used more often is not because there’s a tacit agreement not to use it, but because it’s so costly for the offering club. The rules are all in favour of the original club. Only under exceptional circumstances does it make sense.

          • Given that I number of GM’s have used the “don’t burn bridges” excuse rather than the “cost” excuse, I don’t buy it. There are lots of situations where teams are up against the cap and a player could be had for, say, a second round pick, and they’re not exercised.

            Personally, given how long the typical GM lasts in the league, I think that’s foolish. Unless you’re Dave Poile, you’re probably not going to be here in a year or two.

  • Forward Thinker

    I get offer sheets are available but they tend to piss off teams you may want to trade with in the future. I would try to trade for him first before an offer sheet. The wings may just make a trade for someone who appears to have no future in Vancouver such as Subban or the rights to Trayamkin and a fifth or sixth. That would cost the wings nothing by way of salary but get them a return. It would also not really cost Vancouver much either

  • natevk

    I’m game with the Canucks rolling the dice on virtually any young center with offensive upside. A third line of say Granlund-Athanasiou-Gagner would be so entertaining despite their likely defensive struggles.

  • Is Athanasiou the hill that Benning wants to die on with an offer sheet? Anthanasiou has terrible metrics, with Corsi/Fenwick of 47% and OwnThePuck ratings of 3 across the board (with the exception of goals and that’s based on just one good year). Against the OTP Archetypes, that’s not even a 4th line winger. Signing Anthanasiou just because he’s fast is like signing Brian Boitano because he’s has good edgework. For an analytics site, I’m surprised that CA would ignore the analytical evidence and recommend going nuclear with an offer sheet simply because another team is over the cap.

    • Forward Thinker

      I am not a fan of offer sheets unless you have tried a trade offer first. I get why the sheet is available, but it open up the potential to significantly over pay or/and piss off other GMs with whomever you may want to deal with later. As for this player, I am not thrilled with his numbers but would give up an asset that is not likely in our plans anyway which the other team may have a use for like Subban or Trayamkin. That would be a low cost gamble and you could sign him for less than an offer sheet would cost.

    • I don’t understand why we’d even pursue Anthansiou. Acquiring a player because he’s available doesn’t make sense, he should fulfill a need at an acceptable cost. If we were to looking for a speedy middle-6 scoring winger, a reclamation project like Anthony Duclair would make more sense. Similar stats but younger with better underlying metrics. Playing on Arizona seems like a good reason why his performance tanked last year. Benning could probably swing a trade with Chayka.

  • Dirty30

    Already have Goldy who has speed, can score, shows occasional defensive mindedness and costs much less than AA.

    And the big knock on Goldy was simply Coach ‘play the plodders’ who didn’t know what to do with him..

    Hopefully Green can be a little more open and make use of the assets he has and help them develop into something more.

    Or did Benning just give up Hansen for some guy to park in Utica?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    The whole premise of restricted free agency and offer sheets is ridiculous. Players not under contract should be free agents, full stop. The best young players are already being treated like free agents, with 8 year contracts at big salaries now the apparent norm. Supressing salary and opportunity to play for the rest of the restricted free agent pool is against the interests of players, and I would argue the league. A larger free agent class may well bring salaries down. Why pay Loui Eriksson $6M for 6 years if there are a couple of dozen other effective wingers available to be signed, many of whom are younger? A slot system like that in baseball could work for drafted players. Drafting team gets rights for 4 years, with salary tied to draft position. After that point, unrestricted free agency. Team salary cap would keep salaries in line overall, players would be compensated for their real impact on play, and luck (and draft lotteries) becomes less of a factor in roster construction.

  • crofton

    For a third rounder? Sure, why not. If for no other reason that AA has played for 2 seasons 165 games. What are the odds for a third rounder to get to 200 NHL games? So you get an NHL ready player for the chance of losing the next 3rd rounder to break the “rule”. I’ll take those odds. I don’t know what length of contract they have to offer, but if nothing else, he becomes a tradeable asset.