Cam Atkinson hasn’t played a full NHL game since April 9, 2022 at the age of 32. Now 34, Atkinson plans to return from a season-ending neck surgery in 2023. Does Atkinson still have a place in the Philadelphia Flyers’ plans?
On July 24, 2021, the Philadelphia Flyers traded Jakub Voracek for Cam Atkinson. Since then, both players have played just one full season for their team before suffering significant injuries. In the 2022-23 season, Voracek played in just 11 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets offloaded him to the Arizona Coyotes for Jon Gillies. After suffering a serious concussion, Voracek is not expected to play again.
Cam Atkinson, on the other hand, did not play at all in the 2022-23 season. Atkinson was injured prior to puck drop on opening night, and would undergo season-ending neck surgery in December. Fortunately, things went well for Atkinson, and the veteran forward is now looking forward to playing on opening night this season.
Cam Atkinson’s last full, competitive, NHL game was on April 9, 2022 – a 5-3 loss against the Anaheim Ducks. In the 2021-22 season, Atkinson was still an effective player, scoring 23 goals and 50 points. He was 32 then, and at age 34 now, Atkinson returns to a Flyers team that has gone to great lengths to offload costly veterans under the direction of GM Daniel Briere.
Heading into the 2023-24 season, the Flyers have placed increased emphasis on getting their young prospects, like Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster, consistent NHL playing time. If Cam Atkinson truly does return, it makes it that much harder for the Flyers to achieve their goal.
As things stand, the Flyers are tied to Cam Atkinson for another two years, with the 5’8″ winger signed through the 2024-25 season at a cap hit of $5.875 million. It would be almost impossible for the Flyers to move him at that salary, and coming off of a season-ending neck surgery less than a year ago.
If the organization prefers to not keep Cam Atkinson around, they could start by placing him on waivers and see if a team out there would be willing to claim him for free. If Atkinson clears waivers, he can work on his conditioning and rediscover his form in Lehigh Valley with the Phantoms. If Cam Atkinson winds up in Lehigh Valley, his cap hit will drop from $5.875 million to $4.725 million as a burial.
The Flyers failed to move on from veterans like Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny, and went out and signed Garnet Hathaway and Ryan Poehling. Factor in the returns of Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, and that leaves just one spot in the top-nine for Bobby Brink, Tyson Foerster, and Olle Lycksell to jostle for. This doesn’t include Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski, who previously occupied these spots last season.
Whether Cam Atkinson is a part of the Flyers’ plans this season or not, the roster logjam is something Daniel Briere seriously needs to work out before opening night. Players like Atkinson, Laughton, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Sean Walker cannot and should not be restricting young players’ ice time. Most didn’t have a long-term future on winning teams, and don’t have one on the Flyers either. With nothing to play for in 2023, the Flyers would be better off leaning into their rebuild, even if it includes (at least temporarily) banishing Cam Atkinson to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in favor of a prospect.