The Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to terms with winger Cam Atkinson on a seven-year, $40.25 million extension.
The deal, which carries a $5.75 million cap hit, is just a $2.25 million raise over Atkinson’s former $3.5 million cap charge. It is believed that the contract includes no-trade and no-movement clauses, but the details of those clauses have not yet been confirmed. Atkinson was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
The seven-year deal keeps Atkinson in Columbus through the 2024-2025 campaign; no other Blue Jackets player is signed that far into the future. Once the contract kicks in next season, Atkinson’s cap hit will be the fourth-highest on the team, trailing only Sergei Bobrovsky ($7.425 million), Artemi Panarin ($6 million) and Brandon Dubinsky ($5.8 million).
That being said, Atkinson would have commanded and could have received well over $5.75 million on the open market, especially just one year removed from a career season.
The 28-year-old sniper set career highs across the board last year in goals (35), assists (27), points (62), power-play points (21), game-winning goals (9), etc. Though he is off to a slow start this season with four goals and six points and has been in and out of the lineup, he has evolved into a star winger, scoring a team-high 66 goals and 121 points over the last three seasons. He plays a crucial role on the team in all facets of the game.
Signing a player capable of putting up 30-plus goals for under $6 million a year is not an easy thing to do in today’s NHL. While the Blue Jackets could have allowed Atkinson to play out the season before re-signing him, if he had posted another 60-point campaign, getting him signed for under $6 million could have been near impossible.
For Atkinson, taking care of the deal this early in the season proves Columbus’ commitment to him as a player, as well as its recognition of how important he is to this team. The seven-year commitment does the same. Completing the deal now also eliminates any potential doubt or distraction moving forward, which will allow Atkinson and his teammates to focus on making a playoff push and winning the franchise’s first playoff series.
Atkinson, a one-time All-Star, was drafted by Columbus in the sixth round (157th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He has 125 goals and 233 points in 397 career regular-season games as well as three goals and six points in 11 career postseason games, all with Columbus.
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