Canadiens’ Anderson Can Meet the Flames’ Scoring Forward Need

The Montreal Canadiens continue to surprise this season, winning eight of their first 15 matches, which is as many wins as they had through the first 45 games under former head coach Dominique Ducharme last season. Granted, this edition of the Habs isn’t dealing with as many long-term injuries to key players as they did in 2021-22. That being said, under head coach Martin St. Louis, they are also playing with far more determination and cohesion than they have before.

Despite their unexpected success, general manager (GM) Kent Hughes will continue with his rebuilding plan, which includes transitioning to a younger roster while also reorganizing the salary cap structure. That means he will need to be opportunistic in making moves this season.

Calgary Getting Flamed 

Elliotte Friedman mentioned over Remembrance Day weekend that the Calgary Flames are in search of a scoring forward to keep up with their division rivals, and they need to better balance their lineup. Unfortunately, even before Jonathan Huberdeau suffered an injury, the Flames were struggling to score and win games. As of Nov. 14, they are a .500 club, with a record of 6-6-2, and ranked 23rd in the NHL in goals scored after a busy offseason of adding players like Mackenzie Weegar and Huberdeau.

Jonathan Huberdeau Calgary Flames
Jonathan Huberdeau, Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Flames have been in search of a forward for months, and their lack of depth up front is a significant reason they are outside of the playoff picture. Like last season, they have excellent defence and goaltending but lack scoring. If GM Brad Treliving wants to ensure his team is capable of making the playoffs and going on a deep run, he will need to make some adjustments. They need a versatile player with a reasonable contract, someone who can skate well, score goals, play aggressively on the forecheck, and also boasts size. The Canadiens are a good trade partner with a surplus of forwards, but only one player realistically fits the Flames’ needs: Josh Anderson, who has been a trade target for the Flames in the past. 

Canadiens’ Power Forward Movement  

As a power forward who can skate well and thrives playing a physical game, Anderson would be an ideal fit for the Flames. He fits well in Montreal, but with the addition of Juraj Slafkovsky, the Canadiens may be able to replace Anderson once the 2022 first-overall pick develops his game more. Anderson can be useful as part of a leadership group and can fill a top-nine role in support of the Flames’ young core.

However, at 28 years old and five more years remaining in his contract, he can either be used as mentioned above or become a trade asset for Hughes to cash in on. This becomes more likely if the return package outstrips the value Anderson brings on the ice or when a prospect is considered ready to fill Anderson’s role.

Related: Canadiens Anderson Suspension Provides Youth an Opportunity 

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One issue that must be dealt with is cap space. The Flames are right up against the cap ceiling with just under $700,000 available. Anderson will earn $5.5 million for five more seasons, so it would be impossible for Calgary to take on his contract without sending salary to Montreal in return. While the obvious choice would be for the Flames to include Milan Lucic’s $5.25 million contract in this deal, which expires at the end of this season, he holds a modified no-trade clause (M-NTC), which means he has a list of 10 teams he can veto a trade to and it’s plausible that the Canadiens are on that list. In that case, Treliving will have to convince the former Boston Bruins forward to waive his clause and join a former hated rival or find a way to complete a creative deal to fit the salary structure of both teams. 

Canadiens Need Value Return 

To be convinced to move Anderson, however, it would take a significant return. Hughes has refused offers in the past, and the Canadiens need quality, not quantity. That is to say, sending three or four assets in return for Anderson isn’t the desired goal. The real goal will be to gain a significant asset or two in return, such as a top prospect or a high draft pick. However, we know that Treliving and Hughes have done business before, so it would be nothing new for them to try and make a mutually beneficial deal.

Josh Anderson Montreal Canadiens
Josh Anderson, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Habs already have Calgary’s 2024 first-round pick from the Sean Monahan trade, so it wouldn’t be surprising for Hughes to target their 2023 first-round pick, as the upcoming draft has been touted as a deep one. Hughes has also said that he would like to add another first-round pick to his collection – he already has two in the 2023 first round. If Treliving would be willing to offer one of a 2023 first-round pick, Connor Zary or Jakub Pelletier, in a package with Lucic’s contract, convincing Hughes to make this trade shouldn’t take too long.

Treliving needs to act soon to ensure the Flames don’t drop too far behind their division rivals. A scoring forward is one need the Flames must address, and Anderson could make a positive impact on the team’s depth and ability to compete in the Western Conference. Treliving has both the assets and a history of successful trades with the Canadiens that could lead to improving their playoff odds.

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