Injuries to contenders could trigger increased interest in Red Wings' Andreas Athanasiou

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The NHL trade deadline is Monday afternoon, and you wonder if general manager Steve Yzerman will see an uptick in calls regarding Andreas Athanasiou.

Some key injuries around the league to contenders could make those teams’ general managers anxious to fill gaping holes.

Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou is a league-worst minus-44 this season.

And Athanasiou, though going through a largely disappointing season (eight goals, 14 assists in 44 games with a league-worst minus-44 rating), could ignite a team with a fresh start.

Athanasiou is a restricted free agent on July 1. But at age 25, and having scored 30 goals last season, Athanasiou appears to have plenty of good hockey ahead of him.

There are teams that certainly could be in the market for a potentially dynamic offensive player.

► Colorado tops the list, after losing forward Mikko Rantanen the other day for two months with a possible shoulder injury.

The Avalanche also are rumored to be interested in Montreal forward (and former Red Wing) Tomas Tatar, among others, but Athanasiou would certainly be in the mix.

► Edmonton, with former Wings’ general manager Ken Holland in charge, would be a natural fit for Athanasiou.

The Oilers are still without star forward Connor McDavid for another week or two, but are clinging to the Pacific Division lead.

Having the speedy Athanasiou on a line with McDavid, and/or scoring leader Leon Draisaitl (95 points), would provide a nice boost.

The Oilers also have an intriguing bargaining chip in forward Jesse Puljujarvi, a former draft pick who is playing in Finland.

► Vancouver also could be in play, even after acquiring forward Tyler Toffoli on Monday from Los Angeles.

The Canucks announced that forward Brock Boeser (ribs) will miss three weeks, and forward Micheal Ferland (concussion) is out indefinitely.

Vancouver could be looking for more offensive depth in a heated divisional, and playoff, race.

Pittsburgh and Carolina could also be fits, though not as strongly as the three other teams.

Athanasiou has three goals in eight games since returning from an undisclosed injury, and coach Jeff Blashill was excited after Tuesday’s morning skate about what Athanasiou could potentially do for the Wings the remainder of this season.

“He can have a huge impact,” Blashill said. “At different times in his career he’s scored at high levels. He’s a guy that we certainly rely on to do that. He’s one of the few guys who has put numbers up and we need him to do that.

“He’s certainly had some chances, and just needs to keep bearing down to get those opportunities.”

Athanasiou has played both wing and center for the Wings, and that versatility could also be an intriguing option for teams look to fill a hole on a scoring line.

“He can really do either, and neither one seems to dictate how well he plays in that game,” Blashill said. “I’ve seen him be good at both. You see his skill set at both.

“There are positives for him at center and at wing, and vice versa. I’ve talked with Doubles a lot, and when he’s going at a high level, it won’t matter either spot.

“He has to find a way in the last 20 games or so to keep working hard defensively so he has all those chances. If you defend the right way, then you get the chances to play offense.”

Morning skate

What was expected to be a full morning skate Tuesday turned into an optional, as several players rested because of battling illnesses.

“We have some guys that are sick and fighting it a little bit; they’re under the weather, so rather than waste energy, we decided it was best to go optional,” Blashill said.

Blashill was optimistic everyone expected in the lineup would be available.

Ice chips

Blashill said defenseman Filip Hronek (upper body) remains day to day, and was going to miss Tuesday’s game, after taking a slapshot off the side of his head/helmet Sunday afternoon.

… Blashill had no timeline on a return for Filip Zadina (middle body), who last played Feb. 1. The original timeline for Zadina was missing 2 to 3 weeks.

… Keep an eye on the Red Wings and Colorado, which has been hit hard by injuries and could be in the need for a defensive forward (the Wings could offer Luke Glendening or Darren Helm) and a goaltender (Jonathan Bernier, who played with Colorado before signing with the Wings).

Twitter: @tkulfan