Why Bruins Would Be Wise To Pursue Andreas Athanasiou In Free Agency

The Oilers likely won't be giving Athanasiou a qualifying offer

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Taylor Hall. Mike Hoffman. Tyler Toffoli.

Hey, how about Andreas Athanasiou?

Of course, Athanasiou isn’t exactly in the same tier as Hall, Hoffman and the like. But you can go ahead and put him comfortably among forwards that present a nice fit for the Boston Bruins in free agency.

It appears all but certain Athanasiou’s brief time with Oilers is up, as Edmonton general manager Ken Holland doesn’t plan on giving the restricted free agent a qualifying offer. Thus, he’ll hit the market as an unrestricted free agent.

As Bruins general manager Don Sweeney pointed out Wednesday evening, a new “non-QO” market appears to be emerging this offseason, with an unprecedented number of RFAs set to instead become UFAs. It’s unclear what kind of deals guys who end up in this market will get, but one has to think teams will benefit more than the players.

Which is why the Bruins might be able to get Athanasiou for relatively cheap. He made $3 million annually on his last contract, a two-year deal signed as an RFA with his former team, the Detroit Red Wings. That came after a career-best year that he hasn’t come close to matching since.

So the 26-year-old is in an interesting spot, which is why he’s worth a flier for the Bruins if the price is right.

Athanasiou has been sandbagged by some really bad Detroit Red Wings teams. Over the life of his most recent contract, his common linemates were Luke Glendening and Tyler Bertuzzi. Certainly, putting him anywhere in Boston’s middle six would be an upgrade from what he was playing with in Detroit. We’ll concede, though, he didn’t exactly thrive playing alongside Connor McDavid, but the sample size of that is relatively small.

At this point, it’s proven to be the anomaly, but Athanasiou is just two years removed from scoring 30 goals with 24 assists in 76 games. He’s proven at the NHL level that he can score goals and that coupled with him impressive skating ability should be tantalizing for any team looking for middle-six depth. Though he’s not the bulkiest guy, he’s still 6-foot-2 and capable of playing with a little edge, something the Bruins made clear they valued at the February trade deadline.

In signing Athanasiou, any team would be crossing its fingers that he was just in a bad situation with the Red Wings and didn’t have enough time to fit in with the Oilers. That’s where we stand with the start of free agency just a day away.

The skill is there, he just needs the right fit. Boston very well might be able to offer that.

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