COLUMBUS -- Forward Cam Atkinson signed a seven-year, $41.125 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
The contract, which will run through the 2024-25 NHL season, has an average annual value of $5.875 million. The 28-year-old could have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2018.
"It's no secret that I wanted to be here at the start of my career and finish my career here," Atkinson said. "One of the main reasons I did sign here is I know the direction this team is going with this organization. We're a young team and we're going to continue to get better and grow and mature and hopefully win a Stanley Cup here."
Atkinson has 233 points (125 goals, 108 assists) in 397 games with the Blue Jackets, who selected him in the sixth round (No. 157) of the 2008 NHL Draft.
Video: CBJ@WPG: Atkinson opens scoring with breakaway beauty
"I still tell people I went third overall in the sixth round," he said. "I've definitely come a long way."
Atkinson led Columbus in scoring the past two seasons, including NHL career highs of 35 goals, 27 assists and 62 points last season.
"To lock up a core player like that for the next seven years is obviously a big deal for our team," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.
Atkinson has six points (four goals, two assists) in 15 games this season, earning $3.5 million ending a three-year contract.
"The later you go, the unrestricted free agents, the more you risk he's probably going to walk into the free agency and you get nothing," Kekalainen said. "So, a player of this caliber, if we couldn't reach a deal, would probably be traded so that we wouldn't be wasting an asset.
"There's always, of course, another option you consider, that you sort of rent him to yourself if you're having a very successful season, you're gearing up for the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and you know for sure that you're going to be there. But at the same time, we're a young team and we're building and it's important to retain the assets that we have and keep our core together."
Video: NYI@CBJ: Atkinson nets give-and-go with Panarin
Atkinson has missed four games this season because of an upper-body injury and illness and said the contract negotiations weighed on him.
"If a player in my position doesn't think about the process and where he's going to be, he'd be lying," Atkinson said. "Whether you're playing well or not, it's on your mind.
"There's obviously a lot of uncertainties. The fact we got it done early in the season is important for me and my family."
Atkinson was at dinner Thursday with New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk when Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson called to congratulate him on the contract.
"[Shattenkirk] made me buy dinner last night," said Atkinson, who is from Riverside, Connecticut. "A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and what better way to (celebrate) than to score a couple of goals (Friday) against the team you grew up loving and watched. It's no secret I loved the Rangers."