DETROIT – You know the NHL trade deadline is approaching (Feb. 25) when you start to hear all the rumors swirl even louder than before.
For the Detroit Red Wings -- the team sitting near last place in the league -- the trade rumors have been swirling for months. Whether it's trading goalie Jimmy Howard for a top pick or sending Gustav Nyquist to a contender, the Red Wings have been considered sellers. But now it's starting to get a little more real with February right around the corner.
One of the latest scenarios for Detroit is the idea of trading away forward Andreas Athanasiou. Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman discussed this on their "31 Thoughts" podcast released Thursday. Friedman and Marek pointed to the Edmonton Oilers, who just fired general manager Peter Chiarelli (while his team was losing to Detroit at home), as a possible destination for Athanasiou. Edmonton is going through a management change, but they're only three points out of a playoff spot.
"He can play with (Connor) McDavid at that tempo, and that would be freightening to the rest of the NHL -- you want to talk about backing up the blue line, that's how you do it," said Marek.
Athanasiou, 24, has 17 goals and 13 assists in 45 games played this season. He is second in goals on the team behind Dylan Larkin. He signed a two-year contract with Detroit this past offseason after he went through a contract holdout in 2017. He missed the start of the 2017-18 season while holding out and finally signed a one-year deal in October 2017, then signed the two-year deal in the summer.
Friedman alludes to this in the podcast as a possible reason the Red Wings might think about letting him go in exchange for another young piece, but he's still not convinced Ken Holland would get rid of one of his young goal scorers.
"I'm not not sure that Detroit wants to do that. He's still one of those guys that averages a lot of goals for the time he plays. The relationship between Athanasiou and the Red Wings has never really been easy, but Ken Holland strikes me as looking at that situation saying he's still a very valuable young player, and we're not really looking to do anything if we don't have to. But let's just say this for argument's sake, what's it going to cost you to get him ... it's going to cost you a lot."
Correct. The Red Wings would need to make up for those goals. Say what you want about Athanasiou's 200-foot game, but he scores goals quite well. His speed is what makes him very attractive to other teams, such as the Oilers, who need players who can keep up with McDavid's pace.
"You need guys who can play with (McDavid). The feeling is that team didn't play fast enough," said Friedman.
Trade rumors will be loud this weekend as the NHL celebrates its All-Star Game weekend in San Jose. The Red Wings won't be back in action until Friday, Feb. 1 when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.