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Athanasiou Deal Goes Right In Line With Kyle Davidson’s Strategy

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Fear not Blackhawks fans, the Andreas Athanasiou signing is exactly what it should be. It’s perfectly in line with everything that Kyle Davidson said he was going to do, even after Chicago won the rights to draft Connor Bedard in the 2023 Draft lottery. When being interviewed on the NHL Network following the historic day, Davidson specifically answered the question about the rebuild timeline.

“The way I see it is we’re going to stick to our play,” Davidson told the NHL Network panel. “I’ve been asked a lot over the last little while since we won the lottery about the timeline and does this accelerate anything? For me it really doesn’t change anything. My plan was always that the players would dictate the pace of our rebuild. So we’ll leave that to them.

We’ll do our best to obvoiusly bring this great player in and surround them with a full team of players that we think will be part of a successful team here.”

Win-Win For Both Athanasiou and the Blackhawks

The two-year extension should be the most definitive clue that Davidson is carrying out his plan. The 28-year-old forward isn’t going to be a defensive stalwart nor will he be counted on to be. But Athanasiou can score goals and he can also use his dizzying speed to burst past unassuming defensemen and generate scoring chances.

He can also be someone to deal at the trade deadline should the Blackhawks find the right suitor. The latter isn’t as important as the term foreshadows maybe just how long Davidson is expecting. Core guys are going to get five or more years. These are the definitive guys who everyone within and outside the organization know are going to be building blocks. Show me guys will get a year or two to prove themselves.

Athanasiou is a veteran who knows the ropes and has been a member of both rebuilding squads and playoff teams. He got a taste of it in Detroit before it tore it all down into a full on rebuild. Edmonton had him during the wonky bubble playoff series, which saw the Oilers fall to the Blackhawks. In Los Angeles, he played in six playoff games in 2021-22 after spending the first year with the Kings exiting a rebuild.

So he’s seen both sides now. There isn’t a better player to re-sign who doesn’t have to have the expectations laid out. They have to ice a team. Chicago will need players to do so. But they are also looking for guys who will buy into what they’re trying to achieve.

The trade off? If Athanasiou continues to score goals and keep that upward climb, chances are he hangs around when things get good. Now, it’s very well likely that even if his numbers improve again, he’s still dealt for players or picks that help the Blackhawks later on.

He knows that. But at least it’ll likely be to a contender. Regardless of that, both sides know what the other is seeking. The most important

Building Around Bedard Wisely and Patiently

But to circle back, the term is what matters most. The two-year deal will be likely for some of the other veterans on the team, too as Davidson determines how everything fits together.

Bedard is expected to be a dynamic game changer and all indications speak to it. But Davidson has to walk a careful line. He has to plan as if Bedard isn’t a guarantee just in case injury or in the bizarre case he struggles his rookie season. The cautionary tale is Alexis Lafreniere, who was projected as the next big thing when he was taken first overall in 2020. Go back and look. Tony Ferrari, who then wrote for Dobber Prospects, is one of the finest prospect analysts out there. Even he had Lafreniere as a can’t miss. 

But it hasn’t been that way. In fact, both Lucas Raymond and Tim Stutzle taken after him have outscored him playing less games. He has yet to break 100 points. This from a player dubbed a generational player.

Now, Bedard’s numbers are better. His season wasn’t interrupted by a global pandemic. It’s unlikely that Bedard won’t go the same route.

But Davidson can’t assume anything. He has to operate that for every Patrick Kane, there’s an Alexis Lafreniere who doesn’t quite hit as expected. It’s not to bag on him–it’s simply to explain the rationale.

So when it comes to the price of who he signs or re-signs, it’s really irrelevant. He has to get a team together while putting the right guys out there with what will the organization’s most important development job in 15 years.

It’s not about the timeline or the term or even the price. It’s all about what Davidson said initially.

“Their development will dictate the pace of the rebuild,” Davidson said.  “It’s kind of a wait and see but there’s no change to the plan on our end.”

With that, the Athanasiou signing mirrors exactly what Davidson is setting out to do.

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