While the ongoing contract of Josh Anderson shouldn’t weigh too heavy on the fans minds, it’s something that needs to be figured out. While Anderson may have played quite well in his role last season, it might be time to move on from him and explore other options for the bottom six.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Should Move on from Josh Anderson
There is plenty of reason to like Anderson, of this there is no doubt. However, with reports surfacing this week that Anderson and Columbus aren’t even close on a contract, it is time to start looking forward.
It can change quickly, of course. One phone call. But one word used this morning to describe the gap between #CBJ and Josh Anderson: “vast"
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) September 14, 2017
Despite the obvious affection from the fan base, this wouldn’t be as hard a replacement as some may think. For instance, the following chart shows how Blue Jackets players, one of them being mentioned later in the article, did without Anderson on the ice with them last season.
This isn’t to say that Columbus should quit negotiating, but rather that life without Anderson in the bottom six is become a feasible reality. There are options inside the organization already, so let’s explore a few of them.
A name in the Blue Jackets prospect pool that has many ears perked up is that of Hannikainen. While his sample size in a Blue Jackets sweater has been extremely small, he has shown promise. With Hannikainen fitting the mold of what the front office and head coach John Tortorella like, a big training camp and preseason could very well secure him a spot in Columbus in 2017-18.
In his last full season in Liiga he proved he had the ability to compete against grown men at the age of just 22. In 60 games he had 19 goals and 27 assists. Impressive numbers in a solid European league.
He has brought this ability and success to North America, playing for the Cleveland Monsters for the better part of 2015-16 and 2016-17. His first season saw him have seven goals and 13 assists in 50 games. And in 57 games last season he improved on that tally, scoring 19 goals and adding 18 assists.
While this isn’t a set in stone replacement, and isn’t like-for-like at all, Hannikainen could be another skilled forward to add to the bottom six. His versatility and style of play would gel well with the bottom six quite well, and he could fill a roster spot left by Anderson.
Likelihood: There’s a good chance that a solid training camp and preseason could see Hannikainen in Columbus. Whether or not that’s as a replacement for Anderson remains to be seen.
Much like the aforementioned Hannikainen, Milano is not a like-for-like replacement for Anderson. Like the latter, this would be a transition from a hard hitting, physically bottom six winger to a smooth skating, more skilled forward.
While Milano brings more offensive upside to the bottom six, it is unlikely he would thrive in a fourth line role, unless paired alongside other skilled forwards. His style of play, and lack of end-to-end play, doesn’t match up as well with the style of Tortorella, but he would undoubtedly make a solid replacement.
Like Hannikainen, Milano would have to have a strong training camp and preseason to ensure a roster spot on opening night. But with expectations finally being lowered a bit on him, this might be the perfect circumstance for Milano to step into and experience relative success.
Likelihood: While Milano will surely get some games with the Jackets, this drastic of a change in style between himself and Anderson doesn’t suit the team currently. And with multiple other names looking to fill in on what is likely going to be a skilled third line, Milano might not be able to flourish the way he could if put on the fourth line.
Trade Away Anderson’s Rights
This is another very viable option. With Anderson being one of only two restricted free agents left, the other being Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou, it would make for a good move to capitalize on his big season in 2016-17.
The trade market out there for a 23-year-old forward with his size of frame (6’3″, 221 pounds) and abilities would be big. And when looking for a return to fill in a bottom six role, the amount of suitors wouldn’t be the issue.
With 22 teams having $3 million or more in cap space to cover this move, this could be the best option of all. And if the void between Anderson and Blue Jackets brass is “vast”, this might just be the time to move on from Josh Anderson.
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