Cam Atkinson is headed toward a significant pay day on July 1, if not before.
Scoring 35 goals and averaging 20 per season with an All-Star appearance throw in will go a long way toward ensuring financial security. As he enters the final season of a contract that pays him $3.5 million annually, Atkinson's status beyond 2017-18 appears to be a bit cloudy. At this time next year he will, at the very least, be much wealthier.
The Blue Jackets, in recent years, have moved to lock up key members of their team during the season. Sergei Bobrovsky got a four-year extension two years ago and captain Nick Foligno signed a new six-year deal midway through his impressive 2014-15 campaign, so there's precedent.
According to Elliotte Friedman, who mentioned Atkinson and his looming contract situation in this week's 31 Thoughts column, the Blue Jackets and Atkinson aren't having much dialogue right now.
The Jackets created some flexibility in the summer, so even if they re-sign Jack Johnson — which would surprise no one — there’s space. Atkinson told The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline last week that there would be no discussion during the season, but we were told the same thing three years ago with Sergei Bobrovsky, and he got a deal done in January. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. As an organization, Columbus is a tough negotiator and is basically saying, “How we do this year is going to determine who gets what and where we go.” Atkinson scores 35 again and he can write his own cheque.
There's plenty of time to work something out. The Blue Jackets got it done with both Foligno and Bobrovsky, but let's not forget the ongoing Josh Anderson situation. Atkinson doesn't want to negotiate during the season, but if there's a deal to be made that works for both sides, it's hard to imagine any hesitation to get it done.