Canadiens Can Sell High on Anderson at Trade Deadline

Where would the Montreal Canadiens be without Josh Anderson? Well, in the here and now, probably humiliated by the Winnipeg Jets in their game earlier this week.

Anderson Scores Hat Trick

The power forward, who scored his first career hat trick in the game, singlehandedly got the Habs back in it, after they were down 4-0 in literally the game’s opening minutes. Largely on the strength of Anderson’s three goals, the Habs almost miraculously tied it 4-4 early in the second.

Josh Anderson Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens forward Josh Anderson – (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

True, the Canadiens ended up losing 8-4, but, for a team that’s so far out of the playoff race, it was one more positive sign. Anderson and company may have snapped their five-game winning streak, but you have to believe under the previous administration the Habs would have called it quits at 2-0. They didn’t and actually made a game of it.

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It’s funny, because, months ago, when the Canadiens were still just bad, but could still potentially turn things around, the time for moral Habs victories was over. Then the Canadiens got so bad to the point of the playoffs being all but a mathematical impossibility.

Now it’s come full circle. Moral victories are all the rage now, but for good reason. There’s a sense of optimism in the air with Martin St. Louis now head coach and everyone playing better, Anderson included. That’s maybe even an understatement in some respects.

Related: Canadiens Head Coach Martin St. Louis Not Another Mario Tremblay

It’s worth noting, Anderson had admirably been a vocal critic of how things had been going back then, notoriously speaking up following an embarrassing 7-1 defeat to the New Jersey Devils, the precursor to then-head coach Dominique Ducharme’s dismissal. True to his word, Anderson had one of his better games the next time out against the Washington Capitals, walking the walk as much as possible.

Anderson vs. Petry

In fact, more than just being accountable, Anderson’s been hot, especially recently with six goals and seven points in his last five games. As Anderson’s scored a team-leading 15 goals in 43 games, on pace for 29 over an 82-game schedule, one has to wonder why the Habs might consider trading him ahead of the trade deadline. Don’t speak so soon, as Anderson just may have played himself into their future plans.

There is an undeniable conundrum at work here, similar to the situation with Jeff Petry. All of a sudden they’re each playing better, to the point that the obvious question is why can’t Anderson and Petry be part of the solution? The flipside is they’re each playing so well that it might not last and the Canadiens might want to consider capitalizing on their recent play ahead of the March 21 trade deadline.

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For the record, there are a few clear differences between Anderson and Petry. For starters, Petry is 6.5 years older and, even assuming Petry is over his first-half slump and who we’re seeing now is the real McCoy we’ve all come to know and love, he is perhaps unlikely to stay a force for the remainder of his contract.

Jeff Petry Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry – (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, the same is true of Anderson. Yes, he’s maybe the only true power forward the Habs have got, but Petry is also arguably the only true offensive weapon on defense. Looking at it another way… Carey Price is the only No. 1 goalie they’ve got too. Jonathan Drouin is the only French-Canadian talent on the roster with star power. Rem Pitlick is the only Pitlick in the organization currently playing.

Just because someone has the monopoly on something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be untouchable (although, to be fair, Pitlick has impressed since coming over off waivers). With specific regard to Anderson, the Habs should at least be open to offers heading into the trade deadline for several reasons.

For starters, if you need a power forward, try to get one who’s more dominant. Secondly, whereas Petry entered this season with one of the best Canadiens contracts (based on his play last season), Anderson has one of the worst, with a cap hit of $5.5 million until 2027. Oh, it’s fair for the offense he’s been producing, but it’s also got five seasons left on it after this one. If you’re a fan of his rough-and-tumble style, and why wouldn’t you be, look at Brendan Gallagher as proof that it won’t likely last. Then look at Brendan Gallagher’s contract. Then stare into the abyss and tear up.

Anderson vs. Toffoli

Hell, as good as Anderson’s been recently, there’s good reason to believe it too is a passing fad even as far as the immediate future is concerned. Anderson impressively scored 17 goals in 2020-21, which put him on pace to equal the career-high 27 he notched in 2018-19, but he scored nine of them in the first 13 games. He scored eight the rest of the way, which is a far less impressive 17 goals over a complete season. Admittedly not bad, but not worth the hit either.

This season, prior to his current hot stretch, Anderson had nine goals in 38 games. What’s also worth noting is his current stretch coincides with the Tyler Toffoli trade and him getting put on a line with Nick Suzuki (and Cole Caufield). That’s with whom he was playing to start 2020-21 too. The sudden surge in production is no coincidence. It’s also not all him, which is logical to a certain degree. Chemistry develops between players and certain ones become beneficiaries to a greater extent than others, but ask yourself if Anderson is legitimately someone they can rely on as a first-line player over an entire season.

If the Canadiens can trade Tyler Toffoli with a straight face in the name of a fire sale and complete rebuild, they simply owe it to themselves to explore all avenues with regard to Anderson too. The two-year difference in age between them is not so great that it justifies dealing one and not the other, when Toffoli was far more consistent, even leading the Canadiens in scoring last season. Like Petry, Toffoli entered this season with a far better deal than Anderson’s.

Tyler Toffoli Calgary Flames
Ex-Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli – (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No one is suggesting Anderson is a bad player. He’s been one of the greatest assets the Canadiens have had to start the St. Louis “era,” but assets have plenty of other uses too. Ahead of a trade deadline and during a rebuild, Anderson may very well be best suited suiting up for someone else, leaving the Canadiens a healthy haul of futures instead. That’s where they’d be without him… further along the rebuilding process, arguably with better long-term prospects to match.