Detroit — Andreas Athanasiou is off to Switzerland for some skating and to see what opportunities there might be for an unsigned restricted free agent from the NHL in Europe.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland confirmed that the speedy 23-year-old forward, who scored 18 goals for an offensively challenged Wings team last season, called him Friday morning and told him he was off across the Atlantic to test the waters.
“He called me today just to say that he is going to Europe,” Holland told The Detroit News.
Asked how the conversation went, Holland paused and said, “Double-A’s going to Europe.”
Athanasiou, whose skill tantalizes a franchise rebuilding while attempting to make the playoffs, is the only unsigned RFA in the NHL.
His playing time became an issue at a few junctures during his two-season tenure with the Red Wings, as coach Jeff Blashill said Athanasiou needed to affect games for longer stints than he had.
Like Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha, and what is likely to be a succession of young players moving through the roster in the next few seasons, Athanasiou is still developing in the NHL.
Both Larkin and Mantha have seen their time on ice reduced, at times, based on effectiveness.
Even veteran players sometimes receive that treatment.
Athanasiou’s agent, Darren Ferris, was not immediately available for comment.
TSN's Bob McKenzie, who first reported the news about Athanasiou Friday, reported Athanasiou has no contract in Europe, but is traveling there to skate and test the market.
The National League in Switzerland has produced NHL players in the past, offered a refuge for exiles and prolonged the careers of retirees.
The Red Wings have made clear the negotiations with Athanasiou are stalled because the Red Wings have a market value for him based on comparable players around the league, and Athanasiou is seeking more.
The Wings also are up against the hard salary cap of the NHL. But roster moves can alleviate that obstacle.
Athanasiou also entertained KHL offers from Russia in August, including one for $3 million that is more than $1 million richer than what the Wings are considered likely to have offered.
Martin Frk, who took Athansiou’s spot on the roster, surprised the Red Wings with his performance in the preseason and assisted on the team's first goal of the regular season against the Wild on Thursday, while displaying among the hardest shots in the NHL.
The line of Larkin, Mantha and Frk played well, almost continuously.