Happy to see you for two more years!
After reports surfaced Wednesday evening, the Chicago Blackhawks made it official on Thursday that they have signed pending unrestricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou on a two-year deal that comes with a $4.25M AAV. Athanasiou signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks as a free agent last summer with a $3M AAV cap hit, so he will get to enjoy a $1.25M bump over the next two seasons in Chicago.
When he signed with the Blackhawks last summer, the expectation was that Athanasiou would be in Chicago with an opportunity to play in an elevated role and earn himself a chance to be traded to a contending team at the trade deadline in March, the same expectations that came with Max Domi on the same one-year deal as Athanasiou. Domi was dealt and made the most of his time in Chicago, Athanasiou was not.
Not that he didn’t perform up to his billing, Athanasiou ended the season leading the Blackhawks in points with 40, but his inconsistency and one-dimensional play up until the deadline likely led to the trade market for him not being bountiful. When the deadline passed and Athanasiou was still in Chicago, head coach Luke Richardson made a lineup change and gave Athanasiou a chance to play center on the top line for the remainder of the season, a role he had never played before, and he excelled.
After the season, Athanasiou didn’t sound completely sold on the idea of coming back to Chicago and that he wanted to have an opportunity for a longer-term contract after having multiple one-year deals and bouncing through three teams in three seasons.
Now on a two-year deal, Athanasiou gets some stability in Chicago and a healthy pay-raise. With the Blackhawks needing to spend nearly $20M to reach the NHL salary cap floor before the beginning of next season, the $4.25M AAV cap hit is a purposeful overpayment for Athanasiou, but who is complaining? $4.25M is comparable to players like Nino Niederreiter, Trevor Moore, Boone Jenner, and Alex Iafallo, who all are within a year or two of Athanasiou’s age and a few thousand give or take on his AAV. Of note, the second year of his deal comes with a $2M signing bonus and a $2.25M actual dollars salary for the 2024-25 season.
Athanasiou’s 20-goal, 40-point season last year with the Blackhawks was his second-best year of his career behind his 30-goal, 54-point season for the Red Wings in 2018-19. Along with the prospect of playing with Lukas Reichel and assumed top-overall draft pick Connor Bedard beginning next season, it’s safe to assume Athanasiou could top his numbers with the Blackhawks last season and could flirt with the idea of having a career-best year in 2023-24.