Last offseason, the Boston Bruins and general manager Don Sweeney were in the market for a second-line right wing to put next to veteran David Krejci to solve their woes there. Free agency would most likely be the way Sweeney would go, but there is always the possibility of a trade that helps solve that need.
In the end, the Bruins signed free agent Craig Smith to a three-year deal from the Nashville Predators to help. Smith started out as the third-line right wing, but when Ondrej Kase continued his injury issues in the second game of the 2021 season against the New Jersey Devils, Smith eventually found his way to a top-six spot.
Smith had a productive first season with the Black and Gold, but one was wonder if Sweeney and the front office missed on an opportunity to acquire a top-six forward last October in a trade that has played a big part in the Montreal Canadiens reaching the Stanley Cup finals.
Bruins missed an opportunity to acquire a goal-scoring right wing?
The Columbus Blue Jackets last October were trying to work out a deal with right wing Josh Anderson to extend his stay with the club that selected him 94th overall in the 2012 Entry Draft. The Bruins got a first-hand look at Anderson in the 2019 playoffs when they eliminated the Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in six games on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
While Anderson did not contribute much offensively in that series, he was someone that stuck out and showed potential. That potential ended up going to the Canadiens last October when they sent Max Domi to Columbus and a draft pick for Anderson.
In 52 games for the Canadiens in the Canadian Division, Anderson had 17 goals and seven assists for a Habs team that finished in the fourth and final playoff spot. Montreal finished 18th overall in the league standings, so in a “real” season, the numbers say that they would have missed the postseason. Not the case in 2021.
Montreal has gone on a run, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games after trailing 3-1, sweeping the Winnipeg Jets, then took down the heavily favored Vegas Golden Knights in the semifinals.
Is Montreal a heavy underdog against the Tampa Bay Lightning? Yup. But they have life for a Game 5 tonight in Tampa thanks in large part to Anderson who has had a bit of a coming-out party in the playoffs. He has five goals in the playoffs, but his two goals Monday night in Game 4 kept him and his teammates alive.
After opening the scoring in the first period, he kept the Canadiens’ hopes alive with an overtime goal off of pure hustle. He sent the puck towards the net, went behind the net, but never gave up and was able to get back in front of the net and knock home a loose puck. Pure heart and hustle.
Now look, Montreal signed Anderson to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract with an annual average value (AAV) of $5.5 million. The length and amount of money they gave him is not what the Bruins would have signed up for in extending him. However, if they have a championship window that is closing with their veteran core, then trading for the tough 27-year-old and signing him short-term could have been an option.
It’s hard to say if this was a missed opportunity last October, but you have to wonder if Sweeney had made a move before the rival Canadiens did, what could have been. You have to think that watching the Stanley Cup Final.