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One of the brightest — and fastest — young players in Detroit is right in the thick of contract negotiations.
“I had a number of offers. We continue to talk,” Holland said. “We’ve had a number of conversations.”
Athanasiou, 23, just wrapped his entry-level deal and did so in style, posting career highs in goals (18), assists (11), points (29) and TOI (13:28 per night). He’s regarded as arguably the best and fastest skater on the team — one of the true speedsters in the NHL — and, in an earlier report from MLive, could be looking at a deal that pays $1.5 million annually.
Athanasiou doesn’t have arbitration rights, so Holland will largely dictate how negotiations play out. That said, Holland’s hamstrung by the club’s salary cap situation, as outlined here:
Holland said Monday he anticipates being slightly over the $75 million cap if everyone is healthy to start the season. That would force the team to trade or waive a player. But Holland said they will wait to see what unfolds in camp and preseason.
The Red Wings’ cap figure stands at about $77.5 million, including $2.56 million of dead space from Stephen Weiss, who was bought out in 2015, and Franzen. They could get as much as $3.95 million in cap relief from Franzen, which would take them down to roughly $73.6 million. That doesn’t leave a lot to sign Athanasiou, a restricted free agent, and provide a small cushion to recall a player from the Grand Rapids Griffins as a replacement for someone on short-term IR.
In late July, Detroit signed RFA forward Tomas Tatar to a four-year, $21.2 million extension, one that carries a $5.3M average annual cap hit.