Training camps have started. Most restricted free agents have their new contracts. For the Columbus Blue Jackets, the key word in that last sentence is “most.”
In a surprising turn of events, the Blue Jackets have a player in Josh Anderson who is still without a contract. Not much is available to us in terms of what the hold up is. But according to Aaron Portzline of the Athletic Cleveland, the gap between the team and Anderson is “vast.”
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
The Blue Jackets Stance
How are the Blue Jackets looking at this situation? John Tortorella summarized it perfectly at media day on Wednesday.
“We just move ahead,” Tortorella said. “We’re going to coach the players that are here, make our decisions from there and keep pushing forward.”
Then Tortorella continued.
“There are other people on your ass looking for your job. We’re talking about a young player who is not in camp. He may lose his job. That’s the way it works. That’s healthy. That’s not a threat. It’s healthy.”
Tortorella expressed the same message that the Blue Jackets have maintained in the Jarmo Kekalainen era. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your place is. Your job is not guaranteed. You don’t perform. You don’t play. No player is above the team.
Tortorella’s quote comes as no surprise. If Anderson doesn’t agree to a contract in a reasonable amount of time, he could lose his job. The Blue Jackets have players like Sonny Milano and Vitaly Abramov that would love a spot on the roster.
The question on the minds of fans now is what’s next?
Anderson must decide soon. It seems the Blue Jackets are firm in their offer. It also seems Anderson’s camp is firm in their stance. Something has to give.
Anderson will need to decide if holding firm is in his best interest. According to Kekalainen, Anderson holding out would be a “bad, bad decision.” (from ‘Blue Jackets ready to test others if Josh Anderson is absent’ – The Athletic Cleveland, 9/13/17.)
Anderson has no leverage at this point. He’s a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights. Unless an offer sheet suddenly appears, only the Blue Jackets can negotiate with him.
Perhaps the two sides will meet somewhere in the middle. However given the vast separation, the chances of them meeting in the middle are smaller than usual.
Here’s the point. Just because these negotiations have carried into training camp, the Blue Jackets won’t budge in their stance. They’ve dug in with what they believe is a fair offer for someone with one good season under their belt. They are more than willing to conduct their business with or without Anderson.
What Anderson is doing is not wrong. It’s well within his rights to seek a fair offer in his sight. Eventually though, the pressure will fall on him. The longer he goes without a contract, the worse the situation becomes. Although he is training in Toronto, he’s missing camp. As the days go on, his chances of losing his job increase.
Brandon Dubinsky, on if Josh Anderson's contract is a distraction: "It’s only a distraction if you keep asking about it." Point taken. #CBJ
— Adam Jardy (@AdamJardy) September 14, 2017
Some are asking if he could go in a trade. This isn’t likely. They wouldn’t have gone to lengths to protect him from the Vegas Golden Knights. The Blue Jackets are high on Anderson but won’t overpay.
Everything can change in one phone call. Although things don’t look great now, one call can get the ball rolling for a new contract. This will get done. We just don’t know when.
If I was Anderson, I would get into camp ready to dominate. He needs to show that last season is his norm with a desire for more.
There aren’t many players in the league like Anderson. He could be a force in this league for many years. He’ll get plenty of opportunity to prove himself in the coming years. That could earn him a nice payday eventually.
Right now though, he needs to get to camp. That’s in his best interest.