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Stu Cowan: Josh Anderson is looking like a good fit with the Canadiens

Ben Chiarot, rear, pursues Josh Anderson during Montreal Canadiens practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Jan. 27, 2021.
Ben Chiarot, rear, pursues Josh Anderson during Montreal Canadiens practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Jan. 27, 2021.

This is a tale of two former Columbus Blue Jackets.

Unlike Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson didn’t want out of Columbus and he had no problem with Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella.

Dubois and Anderson are gone from Columbus for different reasons after they were both eligible to become restricted free agents at the end of last season. Dubois signed a two-year, US$10-million contract extension last December. Anderson couldn’t reach an agreement on a new deal with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen after playing only 26 games last season and being limited to 1-3-4 totals before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery.

The Blue Jackets have earned a reputation for taking a hard line in contract negotiations, and rather than take a risk on Anderson’s health they decided to trade him to the Canadiens in exchange for Max Domi , who they signed to a two-year, US$10.6-million contract. The Canadiens signed Anderson to a seven-year, US$38.5-million deal. Anderson and his agent, Darren Ferris, had made it clear they were hoping to sign a long-term deal with the Blue Jackets, but it just didn’t work out.

Dubois did sign a short-term contract with the Blue Jackets, but his relationship with Tortorella quickly deteriorated and he badly wanted out of Columbus. Dubois’s lackadaisical final shift in a Blue Jackets uniform last Thursday was the last straw and the Blue Jackets dealt him to the Winnipeg Jets last Saturday , getting Patrick Laine and Jack Roslovic in return. Laine had wanted out of Winnipeg, so the trade was basically a case of you take our problem and we’ll take yours.

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s decision to take a risk on Anderson is looking good so far, with the 6-foot-3, 226-pound right-winger posting 3-1-4 totals in the first six games, already matching his point total from last season heading into Thursday’s home opener at the Bell Centre against the Calgary Flames (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Domi has 0-2-2 totals in his first seven games with the Blue Jackets.

Following practice Wednesday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Anderson said some of his former Columbus teammates contacted him after he scored two goals in the Canadiens’ season opener, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs .

“They said that they were happy for me and just keep going,” said Anderson, who was selected by the Blue Jackets in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. “And, obviously, we follow each other. I still follow them and try to watch their games as much as I can because I got some really close friends on that team. We keep in touch a little bit throughout the year, which is good.”

As for Tortorella, Anderson said: “Torts is one helluva coach. I loved him ever since I was there. I’ve had no issues with him. He’s an honest guy and you know where you stand with him. You know he really does care about his players. Sometimes he gets on the bad side, but he’s only there to try and help you and I can say 100 per cent that I’ve learned a lot from Tortorella. He’s helped my game develop in a lot of different ways.”

Tortorella encouraged Anderson to work on his shot.

“He wanted me to add a lot more than it was,” Anderson said. “I tended to miss the net quite a few times. He said that if you hit the net 100 per cent of the time you got a really good chance of it going in. So I’ve been trying to do that more often.”

As for the Dubois trade, Anderson said: “Obviously there were a lot of rumours going around at the start of the season. It was a little bit confusing and hard to understand. I don’t know really what to tell you. I guess it didn’t work out for both those players and they wanted a new place to play and I’m glad that they got that figured out and things got settled there.”

Now, Anderson is settling in with the Canadiens and looking forward to his first game at the Bell Centre. On Wednesday, he got his first look at the Canadiens’ locker room when the team practised there.

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“It was kind of hard to figure out the parking situation when I got in there because I had no idea where I was going,” he said. “But other than that, once I got settled in just walking around the dressing room you kind of get lost in there a little bit. … It was pretty special. They got everything you need. Looking back at all the history and all the players that have been here, all the Stanley Cups when you walk in, it kind of takes your breath away. I was kind of speechless for the first 10 minutes walking around the room, just in awe. But I’m looking forward to going back there tomorrow and starting it out.”

Columbus is now in his rear-view mirror.

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