The Detroit Red Wings announced Thursday that the team had reached a deal to re-sign 23-year-old forward Andreas Athanasiou to a new two year contract worth $3 million per year. Locking down Athanasiou completes just one of the key signings the Wings need to make this offseason to secure key pieces of the team’s young core.
Athanasiou has shown a lot of promise in his first three years with the Red Wings. Making his first appearance with Detroit in the 2015-16 season, the Canadian forward has increased his role with the Wings each year and has become one of the favorite young stars of Hockeytown fans. Athanasiou played in 71 games during 2017-18 scoring 16 goalies and tallying 33 points, averaging to almost a point every other game.
Though his numbers may not particularly jump off the page, Andreas Athanasiou’s skill and speed are what make him stand out as one of the Wings’ most promising young players. A certain wow factor accompanies Athanasiou’s style of play which gives him the ability to completely change a game whenever he steps on the ice, and that is much needed these days in the Motor City. Re-signing Athanasiou secures 1/3 of Detroit’s rising star free agents of the summer, which begs the question: when will the Wings lock down Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha?
The Red Wings have about $6 million left in cap space to work with and have to find some way to lock down the rest of its young core. Mantha will turn 24 in September, and like Athanasiou is coming off his third year as part of the Red Wings organization. Though Mantha’s name might not be as prominent in Hockeytown as Athanasiou or Larkin, his impact on the Detroit offense certainly cannot be overlooked. Mantha appeared in 80 games in 2017-18 scoring 24 goals and putting up 24 assists for a total of 48 points. With Athanasiou now making $3 million a year, it’s safe to say Mantha will want a similar sum of money for being with the Wings the same amount of time and putting up even better numbers. Mantha deserves the money, but if he gets $3 million like Andreas, then that leaves little room to please possibly the biggest of the young stars.
In his first 3 seasons with Detroit, Dylan Larkin has emerged as the young star with the best potential to be the future face of the franchise. The former Michigan Wolverine has become the beloved new poster boy of Hockeytown, even though his stats have been less impressive in recent years than his stellar rookie campaign two years ago. Larkin scored just 16 goals in 2017-18 but tallied 47 assists, showing his ability to be a leader and playmaker. The issue is, will the Red Wings have enough money left to please Larkin, who could be expecting a bit of a higher payday due to his prominent status with the fans. In short, that likely will not be the case.
Between Larkin and Mantha, Larkin is more likely to get a long-term deal. The Red Wings could re-sign Mantha for just one or two years at around $2.5 million per year then have space to sign Larkin to a three or four year, paying him enough to stay under the cap this season but promise more money later on for the young star. With both players being RFA’s, the chances of the Wings being able to secure both of them spots on the 2018-19 roster are pretty high. In the end, Red Wings fans should have faith in GM Ken Holland to secure the young core of this rebuilding franchise for the next few years.