When Josh Anderson failed to return to the Blue Jackets lineup this postseason, as he continued to rehab from a major shoulder surgery this spring, it was fair to question whether he had already played his final game for Columbus. Anderson is an impending restricted free agent this off-season who went through a long, contentious negotiation with his club three years ago when he was last seeking a new contract. The two sides finally agreed to a below-market three-year, $5.5MM pact that reportedly left Anderson unhappy and led many to speculate that he could be traded before the two sides had a chance to ever return to the negotiating table. Adding fuel to that fire – on both sides – was Anderson playing well above his price tag for the first two years of his contract, then struggling with injury and inconsistency this year. Anderson’s market value is now murkier than it has ever been and many have felt that it could be in the best interests of both sides to get a fresh start.
For whatever reason, that status quo has now changed dramatically. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline relays word from Anderson’s agent, Darren Ferris, that the 26-year-old power forward’s priority is now to sign a long-term extension to remain in Columbus. Although Anderson has not played this calendar year, and during that time he was nearly traded at the deadline, he has changed his position on the club and now sees a long-term fit. The reasoning remains unclear, but Ferris did clarify that the recent changes in the Blue Jackets’ front office, with Bill Zito departing for the Florida Panthers and Josh Flynn replacing him at the negotiating table, are not a factor. Anderson simply has decided that he would like to stay with the club.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen is also interested in a renewed commitment to Anderson, he tells Portzline. However, the experienced executive is already setting the table for what could be another difficult negotiation, stating “we’ll make every effort to get him signed, but it has to be something that makes sense for both sides.” With a flat cap, Kekalainen could be setting Anderson up for another underwhelming offer, based more on his disappointing platform season than his impressive two seasons prior.
The one piece of leverage that Ferris holds this off-season that he didn’t the last time around is salary arbitration. While it isn’t the long-term solution that Anderson is hoping for, and could in fact end up forcing a trade, arbitration rights could help Anderson to finally find fair market value, as cap space cannot be considered in an award. As always, both sides will try to avoid arbitration, but the looming threat of that option could put Anderson on the winning side of contract talks this time, whether he gets his long-term deal or a short-term pact.