Sign a bottom six center.
It’s no secret that the Penguins are after a third-line center in the wake of Nick Bonino’s
departure. A name floated earlier in the offseason was Matt Duchene, a tantalizing
possibility. However, a deal with Colorado has yet to come to fruition. Another common
name associated with the Penguins’ search has been Tyler Bozak, but that deal also
has not happened.
As of now, the need for a third-line center remains. The Penguins have just over $3 million under the cap to fill that need. Duchene and Bozak carry cap hits of $4.2 and $6 million, respectively, so the Penguins would have to move some money in order to afford either of those guys. But viable—and cheaper—options are available for the Penguins.
One of the best options on the market is Detroit Red Wings center Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou, 23, is an RFA who’s coming off his entry-level contract (with a cap hit of just under $630,000). In the past year with the Wings, Athanasiou had 29 points in 64 games; his 18 goals were second most among the team. He also put up a faceoff percentage of 44.58%—for reference, that’s higher than Evgeni Malkin’s last year.
Athanasiou has good speed and is versatile, making him ideal for a third-line role.
Athanasiou is still in talks with the Red Wings for a new contract, but has threatened to
leave for the KHL. The KHL offer gives both Athanasiou and the Penguins leverage in a
deal. Because the Red Wings still own the rights to Athanasiou, they could get
something in return if the Penguins signed him. But if Athansiou leaves for the KHL,
Detroit gets nothing in return. As of yesterday, a deal was “not imminent” for Athanasiou
and the Wings.
Another possible center for the Penguins is Erik Haula. Haula was taken by the Las
Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft and signed a three-year deal worth $2.75
million a year with them. The 26-year- old finished last season with 26 points in 72
games and an impressive 53.87% on faceoffs—better than any Penguin. Haula also
has a lot of speed, which fits in nicely with the Penguins’ style, and is a good penalty
GM Jim Rutherford is known for taking his time and making deals throughout the
season. But if there is still a move to be made in the offseason, it’s finding a third-line
center. Athanasiou and Haula are good options to fill that role.