Oilers not qualifying Athanasiou or Benning so both going to UFA— Jim Matheson (@jimmathesonnhl) October 7, 2020
Given what we heard Oilers GM Ken Holland say during Monday’s media availability, this news isn’t too shocking.
The Oilers will not tender qualifying offers to either Andreas Athanasiou or Matt Benning, which will make both players unrestricted free agents. They will be free to sign with any team once the free agency period begins on Friday.
Andreas Athanasiou was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings at the 2020 trade deadline for two second round picks. A 30 goal scorer in 2018-19, Athanasiou played in nine regular season games, scoring one goal and one assist. His qualifying offer would have been $3MM.
Matt Benning is coming off of a two year deal that averaged 1.9MM per year. A third pair defenceman, Benning finished with eight points (1-7-8) in 43 games played in 2019-20, Benning averaged seventh among defencemen in average time on ice with just over 13 minutes per game.
Ken Holland suggested that he may try to work out a deal with both players on a reduced rate, but both players’ rights are no longer held by the Oilers, and they will be free to sign with any team during free agency.
The Oilers will be looking for a third line centre and a goaltender this offseason, but losing out on Athanasiou (or a replacement in trade) highlights the ugly truth that the Oilers will still need help on the wings. The loss of Matt Benning may pave the way for Evan Bouchard’s time to begin as a regular on the Oiler blue.
Free agency begins Friday. Keep your eyes peeled.