Josh Anderson and Max Domi may have had an inkling their tenure with their respective NHL teams was coming to an end.
What surprised the two close friends is that they ended up being swapped for each other.
On Tuesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets sent Anderson to Montreal for Domi and a third-round pick in this week's draft.
"It's something you didn't expect, getting traded for one of your best buddies," Anderson told reporters Wednesday. "It was a pretty big shock yesterday. I know that when it did happen and we found out, we FaceTimed each other right after that."
Domi said both players were on a golf course when they heard the news.
"I think any time you get traded you're never expecting it," Domi said. "All the noise and stuff is usually just noise. But it's part of the business.
"I mean if a guy like Wayne Gretzky can get traded then anyone can get traded."
"They have a hell of a player and even better guy coming back the other way in Josh Anderson," he added.
The Canadiens paid a high price to acquire Anderson, but his playing style that combines speed with grit addresses a need on a team that has long lacked toughness at forward.
"They know how to win, which I love," Anderson said of the Canadiens. "They bleed success. They expect you to win."
"I'm going to continue to play the physical way I play, and bring that to Montreal," he added.
Both players are coming off disappointing seasons.
Domi posted career highs in goals (28), assists (44) and points (72) over 82 games in 2018-19, his first season in Montreal after being acquired in a trade with Arizona for forward Alex Galchenyuk. But his numbers dipped in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season to 17 goals and 27 assists in 71 regular-season games.
He added three assists in 10 post-season games and was largely relegated to fourth-line duty by Canadiens coach Claude Julien and assistant Kirk Muller, who took over after Julien underwent a heart procedure in the first round of the playoffs.
"The playoff situation was tough, not a lot of communication there," Domi said. "I wasn't totally sure where I stood, and what I had to do to help the team. I wasn't really told by anyone."
Anderson was looking forward to a big season heading into a contract year, but he was placed on injured reserve after the second game of the season with a shoulder injury.
He returned after missing six games, but underwent surgery on a torn labrum in March and was ruled out for the rest of the season. He had a goal and three assists in 26 games after setting career highs with 27 goals and 47 points the previous season.
"It was very frustrating. It was a down year," Anderson said. "You never go into any year thinking that you're going to get injured, but things like that can happen and obviously in my contract year it did."
Anderson, however, said he's fit and ready to return. In fact, he said he would have been cleared to return to action had Columbus got past Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs.
Domi signed a two-year contract worth US$5.3 million a season with the Blue Jackets on Wednesday. Montreal needs to sign Anderson, a more complicated process than usual given uncertainty around next season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a flat salary cap of US$81.5 million.
"We'll have to see, but if it is a long-term extension I'd be more than happy to be a Montreal Canadien long term," Anderson said.
Anderson said he'll miss the tight-knit group in Columbus, and Domi said he will have to move on without the passion of the vocal fans at Montreal's Bell Centre. But both players said they have a good opportunity with their respective new teams.
"We're both going into a situation where we're wanted, and that's all a player can really ask for," Domi said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020.
The Canadian Press