Montreal Canadiens: New Contracts Tip Scale in Habs Favour in Josh Anderson Trade

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin rolled the dice on Josh Anderson.

The Montreal Canadiens surprised their fan base by trading Max Domi and a third round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Josh Anderson. The trade came down just before the 2020 NHL Draft and it was the talk of the event as many fans had a strong opinion of the deal.

It was easy to look at Anderson’s most recent season and wonder what general manager Marc Bergevin was thinking.

Anderson played just 26 games last season for the Blue Jackets and he scored a single goal and four points. Domi, on the other hand, scored 17 goals and 44 points in what Habs fans felt was a disappointing season for the sometimes winger and sometimes centre ice man.

But Bergevin was clearly not worried about last season’s numbers. Anderson was injured most of the season, playing through shoulder injuries and ultimately being shut down because he needed surgery to repair a torn labrum. He was set to return in August if the Blue Jackets had advanced any further in the postseason, but they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.

What Bergevin clearly had his eye on was Anderson’s 2018-19 campaign. The hulking, 6’3″ and 225 pound right winger scored 27 goals and 47 points that season and was a force to be reckoned with on the forecheck and along the boards. His combination of size, speed and willingness to battle and use his body to hunt down opponents made him a difficult player to game plan against.

That is what attracted Anderson to Bergevin, but the two players new contracts really tips the scales in the Habs favour.

At the time of the trade, both Domi and Anderson were restricted free agents. Domi quickly signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $5.3 million. Meanwhile, Anderson was locked up on a seven-year pact with a cap hit of $5.5 million.

That sounds like a lot of risk for the Canadiens, but the Blue Jackets are in a worse spot.

Domi’s two year contract takes him right to unrestricted free agency. It also brings him right to the point where the cap will finally move up from $81.5 million which will give every team some much needed cap space. The 2023 offseason could be a feeding frenzy for free agents.

So, if Domi is no good for two years, it’s a great trade for the Habs. If he is really good for two years, the Blue Jackets are going to lose him because he clearly wants to hit the open market to find his true value.

The Canadiens are taking a risk that Anderson will bounce back from shoulder surgery. Though it’s not that big of a risk since players routinely bounce back from shoulder injuries. I’d be more concerned if Anderson missed most of last season with a brain injury or had to have his hip surgically repaired.

Shoulder surgery won’t slow Anderson down at all and it is his speed and size that made him such. formidable force in the past. The chances of him returning to a 20-goal and 45-point pace while wearing down opponents with his speed, physicality and ability to win puck battles are very high.

The chances of Domi making it work as a second line centre are still in question. Can he get back to his 25-goal and 70-point pace of 2018-19? I think the chances of that are extremely low. I do think the chances of him being a free agent looking for a huge contract on July 1, 2023 are extremely high.

So, taking Max Domi or Josh Anderson is a debate worth having. But no one would take Domi for two years over Anderson for seven.

Also, last time Bergevin acquired a forward and we were worried about the number of goals he scored the previous season, wasn’t that Max Domi for Alex Galchenyuk? That one turned out pretty good. This deal will make it look even better in the long run.