MONTREAL — Josh Anderson is coming to Montreal with a massive chip on his shoulder, which won’t cause him nearly as much discomfort as the torn labrum he dealt with prior to season-ending surgery in March.
If you were wondering how scoring one goal and four points in 26 games this season sat with the six-foot-three, 222-pound power forward whom the Canadiens acquired via trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the answer is: not very well.
“It was very frustrating,” Anderson said during his first conference call with Canadiens reporters following the trade that sent Max Domi and a third-round pick to Columbus. “It was a down year, and you never go into any year thinking that you’re going to get injured or things like that can happen. Obviously, in my contract year, it did. It started with Game 1, getting injured and me coming back early, which I said to myself I would never do again. And I got hurt again later on in the year and just decided that it was the best decision for myself to repair my labrum and make sure that I come back 100 per cent and have a long career.”
The Canadiens are banking on it. Just how much? We’ll find out in the coming days.
Anderson’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, a 26-year-old who’s a year away from being permitted to test the open market, and whatever leverage he had lost in negotiations with Columbus is now firmly on his side in negotiations with the Canadiens. They gave up a centre in Domi who’s out-scored and out-performed Anderson in the best—and even the worst—years of their respective careers, and they chucked the 78th pick in this year’s draft into the deal for good measure.
The Canadiens had to do it to address the most glaring need on their roster, and they should be commended for doing it, but it’s a move that highlights how valuable they think Anderson can be to them.
And so, they’ll pay. They’ll pay for what Anderson was over a year ago—when he scored 27 goals and 47 points—and not for what he was during this frustrating, injury-riddled season.
The Canadiens know where they stand.
“We obviously, before we make a trade, when somebody’s an RFA… it doesn’t take a genius to know where the money should fall in,” said GM Marc Bergevin on Tuesday. “So at the end of the day, we’ll be able to agree on a contract.”
They’ll buy up UFA years from him if they can, and they’ll pray that chip on his shoulder propels him to new heights.
For what it’s worth, Anderson believes it will. He said his biggest motivation, following the surgery to repair the labrum and clean up debris from a broken clavicle, is “just proving a lot of people wrong.”
“I’ve been doing that for my entire life,” the Burlington, Ont., native added. “I succeeded pretty good in my first three years in the league and then last year, with that down year and being injured and not being healthy, things happen like that…
“I’ve told many people this, I’ve never been more confident in myself. I’ve been working for this opportunity for eight months now, so I’m going to thrive off it and do some good things.”
That means Anderson taking advantage of his speed, his size, his physicality and his shot—the assets both he and the Canadiens believe make him a unique player.
That he’s thrilled to be in Montreal and willing to sign on for several years is Step 1.
“If it is a long-term extension, I’d be more than happy to be a Montreal Canadien long-term,” Anderson said. “They’ve got a pretty good team. They know how to win, which I love. They bleed success, they expect you to win. Just going around their team, just to start, they obviously have one of the best goaltenders in the National Hockey League with [Carey] Price. And then the players, you have [Paul] Byron, [Jonathan] Drouin, [Brendan] Gallagher, [Nick] Suzuki, [Tomas] Tatar, [Shea] Weber… the list goes on. They’ve got a great team and I’m looking forward to getting in there, meeting them all, and having success.”
With a clean slate, a clean bill of health, and that desire to silence his doubters, Anderson feels primed for it.