We now continue with part two of our month-long series on the Columbus Blue Jackets and the NHL’s Trade Deadline. In case you missed part one, we discussed why the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs would make for perfect trading partners.
We now turn our attention to a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets currently on injured reserved. We wouldn’t normally bring up someone like this in regards to deadline trades. But two major outlets have listed this player on their potential trade lists. This at least suggests that a case can be made for the Blue Jackets to trade Josh Anderson.
But would they actually trade Anderson? Would they trade him knowing how much they love this player and his upside? I’d personally be surprised, but as always, we can never say never. If it makes the Blue Jackets better now and in the future, they would consider it. Let’s start with how we got here.
Anderson on Two Trade Lists
Anderson’s name appeared on both TSN’s Trade Bait list and The Athletic’s 2020 Trade Board version 1.0 (from ‘NHL Trade Big Board: 27 Players Who Could Move Before the Deadline’, The Athletic NHL, Craig Custance, 1/8/20.)
Let’s make one thing clear before we dive into this. The Columbus Blue Jackets are NOT actively trying to trade Anderson. The reason he appears on these lists is because teams are calling the Blue Jackets about him and his potential availability.
Here is what the Athletic’s Craig Custance wrote in his Trade Board version 1.0 about Anderson.
Even having a down season, Anderson would likely net a nice return for the Blue Jackets because he’s the kind of big, powerful winger playoff teams love. And he wouldn’t be a rental.Craig Custance, the Athletic
One NHL GM admitted to Custance that “Josh Anderson is fascinating to me.”
The bottom line is this. Teams would love to have Anderson on their side. He would bring a big, physical presence to their club while adding a goal-scoring touch. This is exactly why the Blue Jackets love him despite the way his season has gone.
It would be a major understatement to say Anderson’s season hasn’t gone according to plan. He’s on injured reserve after leaving a game in Ottawa in December after a fight. At that point, Anderson had just one goal and four points on the season. The good news is that he has started to skate and could be back sooner rather than later, although a definite time frame is not known at this point.
In his three previous seasons, Anderson has scored 17, 19 and 27 goals. In 2018-19, Anderson’s line was 27-20-47 and +25. He’s a dynamic skater who is not afraid to play a physical game. How many players have actually embraced dropping the gloves with Zdeno Chara?
When he’s right, he can affect the outcome of any game. His injury will only give teams reason to call about potential availability.
Three Things to Keep in Mind
There’s three things that cannot be ignored when considering this kind of move. We need to consider their recent play without him, the roster moving forward without him and his past contract negotiation.
Since Dec 16, their first game without Anderson, the Blue Jackets are 15-2-2. While it’s tough to draw reasonable conclusions in just 19 games, it does at least show the team can have success without him in the lineup. It again reinforces the notion of how strong the defense and goaltending has been. They definitely miss his presence and his game. But they at least have a tiny glimpse in what life without him would be like. Is that enough to pull the trigger?
What about the roster? With Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand holding down spots on the right side, does this allow the Blue Jackets to use him in a trade to address other needs on the team? Atkinson is back from injury and coming off a 41-goal season while Bjorkstrand is playing the best hockey of his career. Would they consider Anderson a bottom-six option in future seasons if they don’t move him or someone to the off-wing? There’s other options in the organization that can play in the bottom-six.
Anderson is a top-six player but do the Blue Jackets want to pay him as one given how this season has gone?
This leads us to the third point of contract negotiations. The last negotiation caused Anderson to miss part of the season. This upcoming one could get tricky as well. How do you pay a 27-goal scorer who has this kind of follow-up season? Will this go all summer? Do Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets want to go down that road again?
With all of that said, the Blue Jackets love this player and would love to keep him around for future seasons. If a trade were to happen, it would have to be a package that makes the Blue Jackets better.
If they could get say a first-round pick and a player in a deal, they’d have to strongly consider it, right? It all comes down to what is being offered to the Blue Jackets.
Teams will do their due diligence and call Jarmo Kekalainen. If someone makes an offer the Blue Jackets can’t refuse, Anderson will be traded. It would have to be overwhelming though. His best days seem to be ahead of him. The Blue Jackets still love what the player can bring.
But they are going to have to make a decision. Do they see him as a top-six option moving forward with Atkinson and Bjorkstrand on hand? Is anyone else ready for a full-time NHL role that could take his spot? Eric Robinson? Someone else?
My take: I don’t see Anderson going anywhere. He brings too much to the table to just give him away. But it does make sense why his name are on these lists. He would be in high demand and it reinforces how many options the Blue Jackets have.
Ideally Anderson finds his game when he gets off injured reserve and helps the Blue Jackets to a playoff spot now and in the future. But we can’t rule out a trade. Will someone step up with an offer the Blue Jackets can’t refuse? They’d better if they want him. That’s the only way Anderson isn’t in Columbus after the trade deadline.