Last week I was asked if I thought any of the 2017 NHL All-Stars would be left unprotected. At first glance, I thought no way, however, I thought there could be a few All Star snubs available to Vegas. It all worked out as my answer Cam Atkinson, was a late addition to the Metropolitan roster. The first time All-Star took that opportunity and went HAM. He scored twice in the 3-on-3 final and was narrowly edged out by Metro teammate Wayne Simmonds for tournament MVP.
The 27 year-old Blue Jacket is enjoying a career year to go along with the unimaginable Columbus run. Atkinson is finally breaking out in his fourth full season as a BJ. However, he struggled to get ice time early on which resulted in two seasons split in the AHL and NHL. The Connecticut forward was drafted very low, although he played at hockey factories Avon Old Farms and Boston College. In fact, he went on a torrid streak in 2010 leading the NCAA in goals (30) and scoring three hatties in ten games. Six years later he set his NHL career high in goals and points with 27 and 53, and he’s well ahead of that pace this season with 22 and 46, with 33 games to go. Every season, Atkinson has gotten better which is a good attribute to any team willing to invest. Like Vegas.
The Blue Jackets have a bunch of great young players they’ll want to protect. But they also have a lot of older players they’ll be forced to protect. It wouldn’t be surprising if GM Jarmo Kekalainen approached Hartnell, Clarkson or Tyutin with a Vince Vaughn-esque pitch to waive their no-movement clause for an expansion draft. If he can’t entice them into a possible move to Sin City, Columbus risks exposing Johnson and Atkinson – the top point-scorer on last year’s team – or up-and-comers such as Wennberg, Jenner or Murray. — Mike Hume, Washington Post
Considering what they’ve done so far this year, it’s going to be tough to move on from any player. But like the other 30 teams, Columbus is forced to make some difficult decisions. Chances are they’re going to lose something valuable. Atkinson could wind up being protected like Hume suggested. The BJ’s only have to act cool like Vince Vaughn and convince the boys to waive their NMCs for the Strip. Sure, but there’s no guarantee they will and I doubt George McPhee is getting excited about an exposed Scotty Hartnell.
Another reason for exposing Atkinson is his expiring contract. In reality, the Blue Jackets won’t retain him after next season. He’ll want a lengthy contract and teams could be lining up. If McPhee believes he can, he could discuss a deal for Atkinson with GM Jarmo Kekalainen. He’s a top line forward that could be playing for the Golden Knights 5-7 years.
As a result, keeping Atkinson appears to be the safer play, though they’ll still need to get one of the NMC players to budge.” – Neil Greenberg, Washington Post
Greenberg is probably right on protecting Atkinson but the NMC players have all the chips. Teams can’t force players to waive their rights, and some could say make it worth my while. That could be the case for teams everywhere. The main factor working against the Golden Knights may just be Las Vegas itself. Let’s be serious, what Columbus player with a NMC wouldn’t bail crumby Columbus, Ohio for Sin City?
You’re right. They all would. Great. Let’s all welcome in Scott Hartnell.
NOTE: David Clarkson, who has an NMC and was previously mentioned in this article, is exempt due to “long-term injury.” He cannot be selected by Vegas, therefore we have edited him out of the story.