The Columbus Blue Jackets announced back in early March that forward Josh Anderson had undergone labrum surgery in his left shoulder and would need four-to-six months to recover. At the time, that meant that Anderson’s 2019-20 season was over. However, given the lengthy pause in the NHL season due to COVID-19, a number of players – including some Blue Jackets – who otherwise would have been done for the year are now looking likely for the delayed postseason. Anderson though is not so lucky.
The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline relays from a team source that Anderson will not be ready for the beginning of the playoffs, widely expected to start up in early August. Hope is not lost that he could return at some point, but it would require a significant run from the Blue Jackets. Portzline writes that Anderson is not expected to be ready for game action until September at the earliest.
As a result, for Anderson to play again this season the Blue Jackets would first need to win their knockout round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs and then would need to upset a top-four seed in the first round of the playoffs. In fact, if the Blue Jackets are the only lower seed to win in the knockout round, they would face the No. 1 seed next. Fortunately, Columbus does have some experience with this accomplishment, shocking the world in 2019 by sweeping the President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lighting in Round One. They also went six games with the Boston Bruins, the eventual Eastern Conference champs and the 2019-20 President’s Trophy winners, in the second round. Few would argue that the current version of the Blue Jackets is more talented than last year’s squad, but at least the majority of the roster has experience with facing stiff competition and coming out victorious. They also have recent playoff experience against top-four seeds in Tampa and Boston and went 4-0-2 against the Bruins, Bolts, and Washington Capitals this season.
If the Blue Jackets are indeed alive when Anderson is back at full strength, he could be a difference-maker for the team. The 6’3”, 220-lb. power forward is build for the physical, high-intensity playoff game and provides the size and aggression that Columbus sometimes lacks up front. Though Anderson struggled offensively this season while batting injury, recording just four point in 26 games, he notched 27 goals and 47 points last year and added another three points in ten playoff games. If Anderson is truly healthy, he could be an x-factor for a Blue Jackets team that would already have to be hot at the point of his return.
If Columbus does not stay alive long enough for Anderson to return, there is some question as to whether we have already seen the last of him in a Blue Jackets uniform, or at the very least playing for the team in the postseason. An impending restricted free agent, Anderson is heading into his final off-season under team control barring a long-term extension. Given his previous contractual battles with the organization, his arbitration rights, and the questions surrounding his health and performance this season, a multi-year deal this summer seems like a long shot. The team had previously been rumored to be shopping Anderson at the trade deadline this season and could resume trade talks in the off-season. If he does indeed re-sign, it will almost certainly be a one-year deal via arbitration of qualifying offer. Thus an impending UFA in 2021, Anderson would likely be back on the block next season, especially if the Blue Jackets do not look like they are headed for the postseason.