Canadiens: Josh Anderson has A Make Or Break Season Ahead of Him

Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Heading into the off-season, the Montreal Canadiens are going to have some tough questions to answer regarding their roster makeup ahead of next season. Of course, they have to sort out the left side of their blueline with upwards of five NHL calibre defensemen currently on the roster. They also need to add some more scoring up front (though the return of a healthy Kirby Dach should help). But I can’t help but look towards Josh Anderson and what the Canadiens could potentially do with him as well.

Anderson is coming off an incredibly disappointing season in which he scored just nine goals (five of which came in the span of five games) and an ugly 42.28 xGF%. This came on the heels of what was a much better year for Anderson in 2022-23, where he scored 21 goals and 32 points across 69 games with the Canadiens, before suffering a season-ending injury. The hope was that he could build on that coming into this year, but he just couldn’t figure it out.

Anderson is paid $5.5 million annually, and while he brings certain intangibles to the game that don’t always appear on the stat sheet, his salary comes with the expectation of scoring goals. And nine goals just isn’t going to cut it. Especially when Anderson isn’t particularly adept at setting his teammates up, having never even eclipsed 15 assists as a Canadien.

So now it begs the question, with the Canadiens in need of adding more scoring, and already having a fair share of young talented forwards, should the Canadiens consider moving on from Anderson? Or should they bank on him having a bounce-back season next year?

This time last year, I’d imagine multiple teams would have been interested in potentially trading for the big power forward. But now, I’d imagine interest is much more sparse. This means it may be hard to move Anderson and fetch a decent return, especially without retaining salary, something the Canadiens won’t want to do, only having one retention spot available as it is.

The Canadiens don’t need to move Anderson, of course, as he’s still under contract for another three seasons. And the Habs have the cap space to hold onto Anderson, at least for now. But the Canadiens must be crossing their fingers, hoping Anderson can bounce back. Otherwise, they’ll have to take matters into their own hands. Montreal is investing too much money in him; they can’t wait forever.  

And if a trade isn’t an option, the Canadiens could also consider buying him out, but in doing so, would double the length of Anderson’s contract but only have to pay out 2/3 of the remaining contract. That seems more likely to be a “next off-season” kind of conversation, but I’d bet the Canadiens are already somewhat prepared to have it.

Unless the Canadiens receive a solid trade offer, something I wouldn’t count on, Anderson will almost surely remain a Hab going into next season. But as more talent enters the fold for the Canadiens, his role will likely continue to decline, and if he doesn’t improve his play, I’d suspect he’ll be on buyout watch.  

Anderson will be the first to tell you he didn’t play well enough this season, and despite the struggles, it never felt like a lack of effort was a contributing factor. In theory, that bodes well for a bounce back. Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, it happens.