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Edmonton Oilers

Oilers Won’t Qualify Athanasiou or Benning, Both Become UFAs

The Edmonton Oilers have decided not to qualify either Andreas Athanasiou or Matt Benning and both players will become UFAs.

While the 2020 NHL Draft was still ongoing, the Edmonton Oilers were done their first-round work after drafting Dylan Holloway at No. 14. That didn’t mean their work was finished when it came to business the team would need to conduct heading into free agency in a matter of a few days.

In talking with TSN’s Ryan about what the Oilers general manager Ken Holland has planned moving forward, he received questions about both forward Andreas Athanasiou and defenseman Matt Benning. When Ryan Rishaug asked specially if the Oilers were going to qualify either player, he said, “I don’t think so.”

Athanasiou, 26, registered 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points through 55 games in 2019-20. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much for the Edmonton Oilers when he came over at the NHL trade deadline. He carried a $3-million cap hit in each of the past two seasons and the qualifying offer would have needed to match. That was too rich for the Oilers.

It was speculated that the Oilers tried to trade Athanasiou but were unable to find taker as other teams likely felt his cost was too high and that, if interested, they’d prefer to take their chances in free agency. It was also rumored the Oilers had tried to convince Athanasiou to consider a less costly contract and perhaps earn a bigger deal down the road. It seems he didn’t bite.

Fans may see this as an unfortunate turn of events considering the price the Oilers paid to land him (two second-round picks).

Andreas Athanasiou Oilers
Andreas Athanasiou Oilers

Benning Should Land a Short-Term Deal

Benning, 26, came in at $1.9 million in each of the past two campaigns and while that’s not a lot of money for a depth defenseman, every dollar counts in a tight salary cap NHL where the Oilers don’t have a lot of room.

There is a chance he and the Oilers work out something else if he doesn’t find another option come October 9, but he’ll likely test free agency and receive a short-term offer at a much lower cost per season than his qualifying offer would have been. He will have many options as right-handed defenseman and will probably be offered an opportunity to play more.

Oilers Take a Hard Hit

When all is said done, if both players leave in free agency, the Oilers gave the Red Wings two second round picks and a fourth rounder for Athanasiou and Mike Green (who retired). And, for that, the Oilers got a combined 11 games from them.

Next: Rounding Out the Top-10 Overall Selections of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

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