When Andreas Athanasiou was extended to a one-year deal by the LA Kings on July 1st, 2021, he was looking to finally bounce back into that 50-point form that he produced in 2018-19.
His speed, hands, and agile moves were shown off in his first year with the LA Kings, but it didn’t go as perfectly as we may have wanted to see it go. Athanasiou recorded 23 points in 47 games in his debut year with Los Angeles.
While the points weren’t as impressive as people hoped, the Kings were willing to give the Woodbridge, Ontario native another chance. On the opening day of the 2021 NHL free agency, the Kings extended Andreas to a one-year deal that carried an AAV of $2.7 million. This was an excellent opportunity for AA to prove himself as a worthy player and that he was, in fact, capable of being a 50-point player.
The 2021-22 NHL season commenced, and Athanasiou began to heat up. Putting up five points in his first four games, Andreas started to look like his 2018-19 self. Right after that, he suffered his first injury, and it was a roller coaster from there on out.
This entire season, AA has gone through countless injuries that have kept him out of the lineup. AA has only played in 25 games this season, 32% of the entire LA Kings schedule. While it hasn’t been too many games, he’s made a positive impact in almost every game. Athanasiou is up to 15 points this season, with ten goals, which ties last year’s goal total in 21 fewer games.
Andreas has also proven himself as a clutch player, as he’s scored the game-winning goals in regulation and overtime this season. Most memorably, the overtime winner against the Boston Bruins on enemy territory back in March.
Using his speed and endless passion for being the better player on the ice, he’s managed to show himself off as a genuine top-line player in the games he appeared in. While the injuries may have been a concern, it’s hard to deny that AA has been a vital part of this year’s LA Kings team. If it weren’t for him, the Kings could be out of a playoff position because of how many clutch goals he’s scored.
Even though it’s been a confusing yet eventful season for Andreas himself, the end of the 2021-22 regular season brings us the off-season (soon, at least), which raises the question of whether LA will extend Andreas Athanasiou or not.
For what it’s worth, the Greek freak has been playing like he’s worth more than what he’s making, according to The Athletic’s model.
Sitting at a market value of $3.6 million, Athanasiou’s goal-scoring has been ranked at a top-notch rate. In an 82-game season, the model projects that Andreas would’ve recorded 21 goals. For $2.7 million, that’s worth it.
Andreas Athanasiou has missed most of the games this year with numerous injuries, but in the games he’s played in, he’s looked like his Detroit Red Wings self. As much as we can guess how he would’ve played had he been healthy throughout all 80 games that the Kings have played, these are the cards we’ve been handed out of the deck.
It’s hard to evaluate whether Athanasiou would’ve stayed hot as he has when he’s played. Therefore the Kings will either take the risk of extending him, or they may play it safe and let him walk in free agency. Since we haven’t seen AA play the entire season, signing him to anything more than a one-year deal could potentially bust. As much as we wanted him to prove himself this season, he hasn’t had that chance due to the injuries.
Would he be willing to take his third straight one-year deal and at a pay cut at that? The Kings have a growing team, and the hope is that all the younger talent they’ve developed plays sooner than later. And would the Kings achieve that if they keep giving chances to players like Athanasiou?
That’s a question for the management to decide, but to guess what the management would do, having players like Samuel Fagemo and Alex Turcotte in the AHL for longer won’t do the Kings any favors.
The big “what if” would be if AA doesn’t perform at the rate he has been this year. The chances of him going back to his 2020-21 self aren’t entirely off the table, and in fact, that’s the probability.
This year, the sample size that we’ve seen from AA has been incredibly small. Judging a player’s next contract off of 26 games (while playing with elite QOT in those games) would be poor judgment and a risk that a team exiting a rebuild cannot take.
Viktor Arvidsson was a risk last summer when the LA Kings picked him up in a trade, especially after the season that he had. But the truth is that Arvidsson was going to perform. He was analytically sound, and even though he had a down year points-wise, he was still that top-notch player that would help the LA Kings succeed that he has done this season.
So, how close is Athanasiou to last season’s Viktor Arvidsson? Sadly, he isn’t close. While both players had their struggles defensively, Viktor Arvidsson was still an elite player in his games. Andreas has had a solid offensive on-ice appearance, but besides his goal-scoring ability, he’s struggled in aspects surrounding the defensive play and the neutral zone.
For Athanasiou, it’s been all about shooting and netting the puck. His shot contributions, shooting, and scoring have been fantastic this year.
Even though that’s what the Kings have been missing, shooting and finishing is a statistic that could be seriously flawed, especially in a small window. For AA, that looks to be the case. Since he’s only played 26 games, his finishing is a little inflated because of that scoring touch he discovered this season. He’s been highly skillful, but many of his shooting statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt. He leads the Kings in ONSH% with 15.38%, which would probably be a little lower had he played more games. Again, there isn’t a way to tell if he would’ve stayed this good throughout the entire season.
As much as Andreas Athanasiou has played like he’s been worth a contract extension, it truly is a risky business extending a player whose statistics are inflated due to his on-ice shooting percentage and his missed games due to injury. When it comes to discussing an extension with Andreas, it’ll be important to keep in mind that he has missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury and that another one-year deal to prove himself as a scorer will be needed.
(Main photo credit: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)