The past few weeks have not been easy for Cam Atkinson.
Not only has he been frustrated by a lack of scoring that hasn't been for a lack of chances (on top of the Blue Jackets’ recent struggles), he has seen his name churn through the rumor mill with the NHL trade deadline rapidly approaching. It’s the first time Atkinson, 25, had ever experienced that feeling and the timing couldn't have been worse.
But that all changed Monday afternoon when his agent and the Blue Jackets got down to business and hammered out a three-year contract extension, one that keeps him in Columbus with the team that drafted and developed him through the 2017-18 season.
"I'm very humbled and very thankful," Atkinson said. "I'm glad I'm going to be here with this group of guys. We have a very special group, and I know we're going to bring a winning team to this town. I'm very excited to be part of this. They've shown a lot of confidence in me.
"I couldn't be happier to sign a three-year extension with the Blue Jackets," he told Bob McElligott yesterday. "They were the ones who drafted me, and I want to start here and end here with my career."
Atkinson can confidently say now that he will be a Blue Jacket for the foreseeable future, but that had not been the case lately. His name was connected to a new team almost daily, and with little in the way of contract talks until the last week, Atkinson wasn't sure if he would be on the move by 3 p.m. Monday — but a call from his agent told him things probably weren't going in that direction.
The Blue Jackets reached out to Atkinson’s camp in the last 4-5 days, he said, in an effort to restart contract talks and try to get an extension done. Both parties agreed on a three-year term, so Atkinson and his agent sat down to discuss numbers and pitch an offer to draw the two closer together.
A few days passed before Atkinson and agent George Bazos heard back, but by 11 a.m. Monday, they were hard at work negotiating the final details of the new three-year deal.
When pen was put to paper and the contract officially registered, it was a weight off Atkinson’s shoulders after a strange few weeks in which uncertainty became the dominant emotion -- and he was open in admitting that it had an adverse effect on his play.
"It's very stressful," Atkinson said. "It's easy to tell yourself not to think about it or worry about it, but it definitely wears and tears on you a little bit. On the ice, I tried to play as hard as I could. Obviously you have a lot of down time when you're not playing, and that's when you think about (the possibilities and rumors) and look at Twitter and social media.
"It seemed like every day for the last two weeks I was getting traded to a different team, but I'm grateful to be part of this organization."
A special and perhaps unexpected part of deadline day was a few of Atkinson's teammates - Scott Hartnell, Nick Foligno, Dalton Prout and Brandon Dubinsky among them - showing up to Atkinson's downtown condo around 2 p.m. to surprise him and spend some time with him during a stressful time.
Little did they know that there would be some exciting news within the hour. Call it ideal timing.
"That was great," Atkinson said. "We were able to celebrate the news together."