Flyers Trade Grades: Fletcher gets shoot-first penalty-killing winger in Cam Atkinson
Chuck Fletcher has gone to work this offseason. So far, he’s made four trades and acquired three players to help bolster the Flyers roster. Cam Atkinson is the most recent Flyers player to be acquired via trade.
With the dust settled from NHL Draft weekend and a few days before free agency starts on Wednesday, I wanted to take a look back at each trade. What did the Flyers give up, what did they get, and, most importantly, how did the Flyers fare in the trade?
Let’s get into these Flyers trade grades.
July 24th: Flyers swap Voracek for Atkinson
In: Cam Atkinson
Out: Jakub Voracek
In Chuck Fletcher’s
final most-recent trade, he sent out a long-time Flyer for a hard-nosed winger. Jakub Voracek spent 10 years in Philadelphia and gave his all to the Flyers. However, it was time for a change. The Flyers needed a shakeup after a very disappointing season and Voracek fell victim to that.
“First of all, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jake, and he’s one of the best players in franchise history. Love him as a person,” Fletcher said after the trade. “We’ve had great conversations all year and for the three years I’ve been here. Gotten really close to him. It’s definitely a mutual thing. I think he would say the same thing. I think it was time for Jake to go to a new team and re-energize. It was time for us to bring in different players and get going in a different direction. It’s as simple as that.”
Voracek and Atkinson are both 32 years old (or will be by the time the season starts) with similar contracts. Voracek has a higher cap hit ($8.25 million) than Atkinson ($5.875). However, Atkinson’s contract is one year longer (through 2025).
Not seeing Voracek in a Flyers sweater is going to be weird. He and Claude Giroux carried a few bad Flyers teams to the playoffs in the mid-to-late 2010s as top-line stalwarts. Atkinson isn’t a bad return at all, though.
This is a trade that could be a win-win for both sides. Voracek is a playmaker that should help set up Patrik Laine for plenty of goals. Atkinson fits a lot of the Flyers’ needs.
“Jake is going to go to Columbus, and he’ll play really well. He’s going to get an opportunity to play with good players. He’s a productive player. Great playmaker,” Fletcher continued. “Has lots of gas left in the tank. I know he’s going to do great there and in turn, I think Cam is going to do very well here. He is excited. I think both teams got what they’re looking for in this deal.”
Cam Atkinson a great fit for Flyers
Atkinson is a shoot-first winger that kills penalties and plays a gritty style. On top of that, Atkinson was a leader in Columbus and a great guy in the locker room.
Adding a penalty-killing forward was one of Fletcher’s top priorities after shoring up the defense. Atkinson fits that need perfectly.
He played a team-high 101 minutes on the penalty kill last season and was on the ice for just nine goals against. For reference, Boone Jenner was on the ice for 12 goals against in 81 minutes and Nick Foligno was on the ice for nine goals against in 69 minutes.
Atkinson was Columbus’ best PK forward. He had four shorthanded goals last season as well as in the 2018-19 season. He has 16 shorties in his career.
“I take a lot of pride in how I PK and aggressiveness, anticipation, and my energy. I think that whoever AV puts me with, we’re going to have success,” Atkinson said. “I’ve been around a long time. Especially playing under a guy like Torts, I’ve learned a lot, how to prepare and how to play this game the right way.”
Atkinson is just a few years removed from a 41-goal year in the 2018-19 season –– the last full NHL season. Over the past two years, however, he had just 27 goals (60 points) in 100 games. The Blue Jackets played a more defensive style under John Tortorella, which may have impacted that a bit, but it’s worth noting.
It also didn’t help that Atkinson shot 9.5% last season and 8.1% in the 2019-20 season after shooting 12.4% in the previous five seasons. If he can get back up to that rate, the Flyers will be very happy.
Trade Grade: B
Flyers Trade Grades: Chuck Fletcher fills biggest need with Ryan Ellis acquisition
Flyers Trade Grades: Rasmus Ristolainen a high-priced gamble by Chuck Fletcher