The Blackhawks have re-signed forward Andreas Athanasiou to a two-year extension at a cap hit of $4.25 million, a source close to the situation confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Blackhawks last summer and was set to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Blackhawks made the news official on Thursday:
"Andreas worked out really well for us," GM Kyle Davidson said. "It was a good fit. He found a little extra something right toward the end. There was actually some nice chemistry with Lukas Reichel, which is not nothing — really liked that. Liked his presence around the room; liked his play on the ice. He shows up every night, plays hard.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
"He was the guy that scored the tying goal in Game 82 against the Flyers. Those are little culture things that you want guys like that, that are going right to the end, when there was every opportunity to shut her down and not finish that game out hard. He scored, he played well, especially down the stretch toward the end of the season. We had mutual interest in him coming back and glad we could bring him back for another two years."
In his first season with the Blackhawks, Athanasiou hit the 20-goal and 40-point plateau for just the second time in his NHL career and appeared in 81 games, which is his most in a single season. He also finished the campaign on a high note by registering 12 points (six goals, six assists) in his final eight games, which included a three-point outing in the season finale.
Athanasiou had been on a one-year deal for three consecutive seasons and was looking for long-term stability in his next contract after wearing four different sweaters in a three-year span. While a two-year deal doesn't necessarily give him long-term security he might have been seeking, it does ensure that he won't have to move again and can call Chicago his home for at least two more years.
"Anytime you get an opportunity to play in this league, it's an awesome thing," Athanasiou said in his exit interview. "Obviously that's in my head. I'd love to be a Blackhawk, for sure. ... There's a lot of young skill that's coming up here and it's pretty exciting. To be a part of it would be fun too, so I guess you could say it."
With Lukas Reichel expected to be in the NHL full-time next season along with Connor Bedard, the likely No. 1 overall pick, it's important for the Blackhawks to surround their younger players with veterans who can skate and score. Athanasiou accomplishes part of that goal, with the Blackhawks retaining a speedy, game-breaking-type versatile forward that will be a consistent piece in the top-nine.
Ultimately, it's a win-win situation for both Athanasiou and the Blackhawks, who probably didn't mind going a little higher on the cap hit if it meant a shorter-term deal to ensure getting above the cap floor while maintaining financial flexibility in the long run.