Max Domi signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday after he and a third-round pick (No. 78) in the 2020 NHL Draft were traded to the Blue Jackets by the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday for forward Josh Anderson. The contract has an average annual value of $5.3 million.
Domi, who could have become a restricted free agent Oct. 9, can now become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season. The 25-year-old forward scored 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 71 games with the Canadiens this season and had three assists in 10 postseason games.
“I never like to compare teams or organizations, but Columbus is right there and it’s a team that’s ready to win a Stanley Cup,” Domi said Wednesday. “Playing in that rink is something that is very difficult. It’s a challenge. It’s very loud. The fans are unbelievable. … Everyone from the organization has reached out to me. It’s been first class. I got a call from [coach John Tortorella] and [general manager Jarmo Kekalainen] right away, so it’s pretty amazing to hear and I’m just really excited about this next chapter and next challenge and we’ve got a special group and I’m just really looking forward to being a part of it.”
Domi had his ice time reduced in the postseason, when the No. 12 seed Canadiens defeated the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers before losing in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round. He averaged 14:21 in ice time per game, ninth among Montreal forwards after averaging 17:06 per game in the regular season, fourth among Canadiens forwards.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Montreal,” Domi said. “I was treated first class from top to bottom. To wear that jersey on a daily basis was just something very spectacular and something that my family and I got to enjoy. I bought all the way into it. I was prepared to do whatever it took to help that team win a Stanley Cup and that’s kind of just how I’ve always been whether it’s in Arizona [with the Coyotes], then Montreal and now in Columbus. It doesn’t change at all. So that’s part of who I am.”
Selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round (No. 12) of the 2013 NHL Draft, Domi has scored 251 points (81 goals, 170 assists) in 375 regular-season games with the Coyotes and Canadiens.
“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Max this quickly as it was important to all of us that our focus be on the upcoming season and winning hockey games,” Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Wednesday. “As I have said, we expect Max to be a great fit with our group. He is the type of player and person that personifies Blue Jackets hockey and we believe he is going to be an important part of our group moving forward.”
Kekalainen said after the trade Tuesday that Domi will play center and fill an area of need for the Blue Jackets
“We got a centerman that we’ve been looking for in Max Domi and he is going to fill a hole for us that we have been looking to fill for a long time, and we are excited about him joining our club,” Kekalainen said. “He brings a lot of different qualities that we are looking for. He’s competitive, he’s feisty, he plays with a chip on his shoulder, he’s got good hockey sense, he’s got speed. He’s going to bring a lot of those things into our club.”
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Domi said he was happy to hear the Blue Jackets plan to play him at center, which is his preference.
“Yeah. That’s for sure. I love playing in the middle of the ice,” Domi said. “I believe that’s where I stand. That being said, if I was to become a wing for whatever situation or whatever reason, I’m sure I would make that work as well. I’ve played both positions, all three for that matter, so whatever [Tortorella] is expecting of me. As far as I know, I’ll be starting off in the middle, which is super exciting for me, and I’ll be getting to play with some pretty crafty players up front, too. So that’s really exciting for me.”
Anderson, who can become a restricted free agent Oct. 9, scored four points (one goal, three assists) and was limited to 26 games this season because of a left shoulder injury sustained against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 14. The 26-year-old had surgery for a posterior labral tear March 2. He was expected to make a full recovery in 4-6 months.
“My shoulder is 100 percent, stable,” Anderson said Wednesday. “I’ve talked to many guys who have had torn labrums in the past and all of them have said that their shoulders feel stronger than the other one. This is a good sign. It needed to be fixed. It’s healed up, I’ve done a lot of physio and strength and training to get to where I need to be. I’m just looking forward to the new opportunity and to play hockey once again.”
Anderson did not play in the postseason, but did join the Blue Jackets in the bubble and was nearing a possible return when they were defeated in five games by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round after a five-game series win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Qualifiers.
“It took some time for some healing but once I went in the bubble, I was right there, feeling strong, ready to play,” Anderson said. “You wanted it to be 100 percent before you played playoff hockey because it’s such a different game. That being said, if Columbus had been able to move past Tampa, I was going to be ready. I was practicing hard, doing battle drills, it felt great. But I wasn’t going to put myself in jeopardy and come back early.”
The Canadiens are counting on Anderson (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) recapturing the form he displayed in 2018-19, when he scored an NHL career-high 27 goals and 47 points in 82 games.
“We gave up a pretty good asset in Max Domi but that was the price to pay to have Josh Anderson, who is a power forward,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said. “There’s very few players like him in the League. We’re trying to get bigger, especially up front. We like what he brings. He missed time last year, but we feel that he’ll be back 100 percent and ready to go.”
Selected by Columbus in the fourth round (No. 95) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Anderson has scored 115 points (65 goals, 50 assists) in 267 regular-season games and eight points (three goals, five assists) in 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“[The Canadiens have] got a pretty good team,” Anderson said. “Obviously they know how to win, which I love. They bleed success. … They’ve got a great team and I’m looking forward to getting in there, meeting them all and having success.”
The Blue Jackets selected defenseman Samuel Knazko (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) from TPS in Finland’s junior league with the No. 78 pick. Knazko, No. 42 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters, scored 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 48 games this season and had one assist in five games for Slovakia at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke, columnist Dave Stubbs and staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this report