New Jersey Devils: Andreas Athanasiou Is A Better Fit Than Mike Hoffman Anyway

The New Jersey Devils still have a ton of cap space, but they are running out of places to spend it.

The New Jersey Devils were one of the teams tied to free agent Mike Hoffman. The 20-goal scorer was free to whichever team wanted to sign him, but he eventually signed a PTO with the St. Louis Blues. This sounds like it’s going to be some cap gymnastics, but either way, the Devils lost an opportunity to sign a quality forward when they had the most money to spend on him.

The Devils have a glaring hole on its top six. Let’s say Jesper Bratt makes it to the NHL without any more issues, and Jesper Boqvist is a serviceable top-six forward, the Devils still need Jack Hughes to take six steps forward and Nico Hischier being a legitimate top center for this team to do anything. Adding Hoffman to the top six would have really helped the offense out.

However, the best fit for the Devils wasn’t Hoffman. It’s former Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers winger Andreas Athanasiou.

Athanasiou is a speedy winger that can make plays on his own. However, he’s much better when he’s with a playmaker that knows his skillset. The Devils could sign Athanasiou for free, add him to this team’s core for at least one year, and see if the 26 year old can find some of the old magic that once made him a 30-goal scorer. That’s right. Just two seasons ago, Athanasiou scored 30 goals for a putrid Red Wings team.

The Devils do need to do something.

This roster is crying for one more move. Tom Fitzgerald has done a good job by acquiring Andreas Johnsson and Ryan Murray for a 5th-round pick and Joey Anderson. He signed Mackenzie Blackwood to a deal of a contract. He made two great picks in the NHL Draft (Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer) and one with some serious upside (Shakir Mukhamadullin). It’s not a bad first offseason as GM. However, he could complete it this week by signing Andreas Athanasiou to a deal.

Athanasiou brings the same trade value if he excels with the Devils (he brought two 2nd rounders just last season). He’s much younger (AA is 26 years old. Hoffman is 31.). Fitzgerald can argue this signing would be part of the plan (signing players of a certain age). If the Devils struggle, that means they’d have Athanasiou as an asset on an expiring contract. This goes along with Nikita Gusev, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac. Then, as teams try to get contracts moved before the expansion draft, the Devils will still have roughly $35 million to play with next season with Michael McLeod as their most important restricted free agent (barring a one-year deal for Bratt).