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Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW(SE): What to do about Andreas Athanasiou?

When it comes to offseason moves for the Edmonton Oilers, one of the most interesting decisions Ken Holland will have to make relates to the newly acquired Andreas Athanasiou. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Sunday Edition), I want to know how you’d handle the former 30-goal man.

Over the past few months, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the Oilers are going to do with Andreas Athanasiou for the upcoming season given that he had only nine games to prove himself before the NHL shut down as a result of COVID-19 and it’s not like he exactly lit the world on fire. On deadline day, there’s no doubt that a lot of us were pretty excited about the acquisition and what he might be able to do with McDavid or Draisaitl so the idea of walking away from him for nothing at the end of the year had likely never occurred. Now, in mid-August, we have a better idea about what to expect regarding the Coronacap, but we have no idea how Ken Holland is actually planning to use it or how Athanasiou fits into those plans.

Here’s what I wrote about Athanasiou four months ago:

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As an RFA, the Oilers will be able to hang on to Athanasiou’s rights provided they hit him with a qualifying offer on his current $3 million contract. For a guy that scored 30 goals two seasons ago, that price tag actually seemed like a bargain and something you’d re-sign him to in a heartbeat, but I can tell you that the same won’t be said about the 11 he got this past year. The problem, of course, is that we have no idea what the salary cap is going to look like for the 2020-21 season because of this pandemic and it could end up being tricky to fit everyone in under the bar. So what does that mean for Athanasiou?

A lot has changed since that article was posted when it comes to the available options. We now know that the NHL’s salary cap will remain flat next year, and just this past week, Elliotte Friedman suggested that the Oilers are unlikely to qualify Athanasiou given the rate they’d have to pay, leaving his future with the franchise in limbo before ever really had a chance to get started. Last week, Gregor looked at Athanasiou’s situation and wondered if Ken Holland might be able to get him at a reduced rate given his tough year, basically offering up a show-me contract where he’d have the chance to put up a good season and earn a better deal either with the Oilers or elsewhere.

Andreas Athanasiou needs to be qualified at $3m. The Oilers could take him to arbitration and offer him $2.55 million (15% reduction of current contract), or get him to sign a new deal before qualifying period. They will try to get a new deal. I don’t think he would get more than $2.2m on the open market, so I sense either he re-signs for around that or lower with Edmonton, or they walk. It isn’t ideal, due to the draft picks, but the flat cap has changed how you build your team. The best GMs make the tough decisions, even when they aren’t popular.

Part of the problem is that the guy played only 13 games with the Edmonton Oilers as a result of the strange circumstances that we’ve all been living with over the past few months and that’s hardly enough time to truly understand what the team has here. There were games when Athanasiou looked alright — I actually thought he played his best hockey as an Oiler in the play-in round against Chicago — but the inconsistencies in his game are also pretty hard to ignore, making this decision tougher now than it once may have been. So what’s the answer? I don’t know — that’s where you come in. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Sunday Edition), I want to know what your plan would be in terms of handling the 26-year-old restricted free agent?

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Maybe you think that Ken Holland should just walk away and write off the trade at as a loss, angry to miss out on both the player and the second-round picks that were given up to acquire him but knowing that cap space is ultimately too valuable? Maybe you’d try to run the route that Gregor suggested and negotiate a longer-term deal with a lower rate based on the disappointing season he had in 2019-20? Maybe you’d qualify him to maintain his rights and look to trade him entirely, possibly recouping some of the assets spent to acquire him at the trade deadline? Maybe you’ve got an idea in that big ol’ brain of yours that I haven’t even thought of and your wizardry is going to blow us all away?

In today’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Sunday edition), I’m asking you to put on your GM’s cap, pull out your calculator, and make the call on what you would do as it relates to Athanasiou?

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ATHANASIOU’S NHL CAREER SO FAR

Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM +/- PGP G A Pts PIM
2015-16 Detroit Red Wings NHL 37 9 5 14 5 1 5 1 1
2016-17 Detroit Red Wings NHL 64 18 11 29 28 -7
2017-18 Detroit Red Wings NHL 71 16 17 33 16 -15
2018-19 Detroit Red Wings NHL 76 30 24 54 38 -9
2019-20 Detroit Red Wings NHL 46 10 14 24 26 -45
2019-20 Edmonton Oilers NHL 9 1 1 2 4 -1 4 2
NHL Totals 303 84 72 156 117 9 1 1 2
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