Cam Atkinson

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Blue Jackets bet big on Cam Atkinson

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Carrying a $3.5 million cap hit, Cam Atkinson ranked as one of the better bargains in the NHL, especially considering his trip to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. It sounds like the Columbus Blue Jackets rewarded him for that hard work on Thursday.

The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports (sub required) that the Blue Jackets signed Atkinson to a seven-year, $40.25 million extension, which translates to a $5.75M cap hit starting in 2018-19. (Confirmed by the team Friday morning.)

Atkinson will turn 29 in June, so his extension will kick in before he turns 30. Portzline explains that Atkinson sacrificed some short-term cash for the security of a longer deal.

Interesting.

PHT broke down the Blue Jacket’s salary cap structure after they signed Alexander Wennberg to a six-year deal that carries a $4.9M cap hit. Atkinson was singled out as one of the big forks in the road for Blue Jackets management, so they made a big commitment to him tonight.

(Note: the Blue Jackets haven’t confirmed the extension, but multiple outlets back up the news Portzline broke.)

It seems like Atkinson checks out pretty nicely from a fancy stats perspective, although the $5.75M question will be: how long will this count as a bargain?

The Blue Jackets are committed to Atkinson for more term than any other player now. That said, they do have some other guys under contracts for three years or more: Wennberg, Seth Jones, David Savard, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Josh Anderson, and Pierre-Luc Dubois (granted, the latter is a cheat since he’s on his rookie deal).

Columbus still has some questions to answer. Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin both only have two years remaining on their deals (counting this season). They need to figure out where Boone Jenner fits in the picture, as he’ll be an RFA next summer. Ryan Murray and Jack Johnson are both on expiring contracts, as well.

Overall, there’s definitely some risk involved in this Atkinson extension, yet we’re talking about a player in his prime who’s riding four consecutive 20+ goal seasons. If he can flirt with his breakthrough of 37 goals in 2016-17 fairly often, the Blue Jackets will be very happy with their decision.

Atkinson had been off to a somewhat slow start in 2017-18 (four goals, two assists in 15 games coming into Thursday), so maybe this extension will ease his mind, too?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins sign Miami (Ohio) playmaker Czarnik

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The Boston Bruins have dipped into the college free agent market, agreeing to terms with Miami senior Austin Czarnik on an entry-level deal.

Czarnik, 22, is a former Hobey Baker finalist and the second-leading assist man in RedHawks history. He’s captained the club in each of the last two seasons and should have some immediate chemistry in Boston, as Reilly Smith was Czarnik’s former linemate at Miami during the 2011-12 campaign.

Though undersized — listed at 5-foot-9, 167 pounds — Czarnik is a skilled player that can create for others. He finished tied for third in the country in assists this year, with 36.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, there appeared to be a number of NHL clubs interested in securing Czarnik’s services. It’s interesting to note that Boston won out shortly after it was linked to another skilled, undersized forward — Columbus’ Cam Atkinson — at the March trade deadline.

Dubnyk, Atkinson, and O’Reilly are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson and Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Dubnyk went 4-0-0 with a 1.22 goals-against average and .962 save percentage to lead the Wild (44-25-7, 95 points) to four consecutive victories, including their franchise-record 10th straight on the road.

Atkinson shared first in the NHL with four goals, ranked second with seven points and led the League with a +6 rating as the Blue Jackets (36-35-4, 76 points) won all three of their games, including their franchise-record eighth consecutive on the road.

O’Reilly led the NHL with seven assists and eight points to power the Avalanche (35 28 12, 82 points) to two victories in four starts.

Dubnyk now has a .930 save percentage, second to only Carey Price (.937) among regular starters. With all due respect to Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider and a handful of other goalies enjoying excellent seasons, what Dubnyk has done for the Wild should really make him a Vezina Trophy finalist, along with Price and Pekka Rinne.

Toews: Blackhawks giving up too many ‘Grade-A scoring chances’ of late

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Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford may have been pulled in the first period of Friday’s game, but the team in front of him was just as culpable after some defensive lapses against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus had a pair of goals on breakaways in the opening period, including a beautiful short-handed tally from Cam Atkinson, who recorded the hat trick in the Blue Jackets decisive victory over Chicago.

And Jonathan Toews has had enough of the defensive miscues.

“We just gave away too many Grade-A scoring chances. We’re doing that to our goaltenders way too often lately,” said Toews, as per Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild won again, defeating the Calgary Flames earlier in the evening. That moves Minnesota to within one point of the Blackhawks for third in the Central Division.

Video: Atkinson fools Crawford on short-handed breakaway, records hat trick in win over Chicago

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Cam Atkinson recorded the hat trick for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, and his second goal of the evening was a beauty.

Sent in a short-handed breakaway, Atkinson completely fooled Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford with a move to the forehand, tucking the puck into a wide open net to give Columbus a 4-2 lead late in the first period. Crawford was pulled after that goal.

The Blue Jackets went to win by a final score of 5-2, with Atkinson scoring an empty net goal for his third of the evening. He’s now up to 19 goals on the season. His career high sits at 21, which is a total he recorded last season.