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3 Flyers Trade Destinations for Cam Atkinson

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(Photo: AP)

A Tuesday report from NHL insider on Darren Dreger virtually made it official that the Philadelphia Flyers were shopping struggling winger Cam Atkinson on the NHL trade block, with the San Jose Sharks reportedly displaying interest in the 35-year-old. Though Atkinson wasn’t interested in San Jose, according to Dreger, there are a few destinations that might suit him better.

One such destination could be one that Atkinson and Flyers head coach John Tortorella know intimately, and that’s Columbus.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Cam Atkinson is, objectively, one of the most decorated players in Columbus Blue Jackets history. A Blue Jackets player of 10 seasons, Atkinson has 213 goals, 189 assists, 402 points, and 627 regular season games to his name .

Those figures rank second, fifth, second, and second, respectively, all-time in Blue Jackets history; Rick Nash is the only Blue Jackets player to have been a more prolific goal-scorer and point-getter than Atkinson was in Columbus.

At the time of this writing, the Blue Jackets have $23.775 million in cap space, so accommodating some or all of Atkinson’s $5.775 million cap hit will be no problem. The Flyers forward wishes to prove he can still play hockey at a high level, but whether that happens in Philadelphia or somewhere else remains to be seen.

As for a fit, the Blue Jackets have been in a constant state of disarray for some time now, dealing with injuries, coaching changes, and a Mike Babcock scandal that also led to a coaching change. Columbus has eight key players on their NHL roster who are 25 or younger, and star winger Patrik Laine is more than likely done there, too.

That opens the possibility for Atkinson to return home not only as a needed leader, but as a franchise legend who lived out an inspiring underdog story as a 5-foot-8 winger playing in the NHL for over a decade.

Utah Hockey Club

Atkinson has a 10-team no-trade clause in his contract, but if he really wants to show he can play, there would be few better opportunities to do so than on a barren Utah Hockey Club.

Utah has almost as much cap space available ($43.564 million) as they have used ($44.435 million), and quite honestly, they need to start adding players. It’s highly unlikely Atkinson ever finds the scoring touch he once had when he scored 41 goals in 80 games five seasons ago, but Utah has one forward over the age of 30 in their lineup, and that’s Nick Bjugstad.

If Utah is to ever take the next step from being semi-competitive to actually competitive, they need veteran players who can help usher in the next generation.

And if Atkinson had a nice outing with Utah, for example, and a player like Josh Doan is ready for a full-time role in the NHL, the veteran Flyers forward could be then granted the chance to play for a Stanley Cup contender for the first time in his NHL career.

Colorado Avalanche

Speaking of Stanley Cup contenders, let’s get to that now.

We have no idea if or when Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is returning to the ice for game action, and Valeri Nichushkin will be away from the team for an indeterminate period of time as he receives care from the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. That’s two top-six wingers, who have won and achieved a lot with this organization, off the table.

Atkinson was a pretty productive player for the Flyers up until the NHL All-Star Break, after which he was unable to produce one single point. But if the Avalanche and their Marvel-esque cast of superstars, including the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar, can rejuvenate Atkinson offensively, they might strike a good deal.

In his first full season with the Flyers before the season-ending neck surgery, Atkinson scored 23 goals, 27 assists, and 50 points in 73 games. Those are pretty good numbers, and the 35-year-old was close to that pace again this season before hitting the proverbial wall at full speed.

Plus, it’s doubtful the Avalanche can find a decent middle-six winger in free agency who would come cheaper than Atkinson at or close to 50% salary retained.

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