Who's capable of replacing playmaker?

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Connect the dots and it's increasingly easy to believe Alex Tanguay's chances of remaining a Calgary Flame much longer are dwindling.

With Darryl Sutter in tight trying to ink Dion Phaneuf while also hoping to take a stab at trying to keep either Kristian Huselius or Daymond Langkow next year, one of the GM's most obvious options is to try shedding Tanguay and the $5.375 million salary he carries through next season.

Tanguay denies reports he's talked to Sutter about a departure or that he has waived his no-trade clause.

However, he saw Sutter on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the Montreal game Saturday, fueling speculation the left-winger could be heading there soon.

Even Tanguay admitted yesterday the money he makes doesn't jive with the secondary role he's been given, making him ripe for a trade. While vastly underappreciated in Calgary where he's now a second-line winger and penalty killer, there are plenty of teams throughout the Eastern Conference -- where Sutter is scouting -- understandably interested in the 28-year-old.

In a world without a salary cap, he'd be untouchable on a Cup contender such as the Flames given the depth he provides and the ability to step in as a first-line winger.

But with Huselius shining on the top line and three key players all in need of new contracts, many argue it's prudent to open up cap space and deal Tanguay. The trick is receiving someone of equal value to the team so the club doesn't sacrifice a potential Cup run this spring for the sake of next year. That is almost impossible given Tanguay is the seventh-most productive even-strength NHLer (based on points and even-strength minutes played) since the lockout.

What's more, Tanguay's departure still likely wouldn't enable Sutter to make a legitimate offer to either Langkow or Huselius anyway, given the team has already committed to $38 milllion in deals, excluding the money Phaneuf will command.

Sutter must tread carefully because few players in the league could fill Tanguay's shoes. Saying goodbye to a playmaker isn't as easy or simple as it may appear.

Now, more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if it only makes sense to start all shootouts with a Phaneuf slapper.

AROUND THE HORN

Adrian Aucoin spoke to the crowd after his 102.3 m.p.h. slapper with a wooden stick brought the house down to win the team's hardest shot competition. "Hey you parents out there -- this is just a $30 stick," said the Flames d-man, holding his RBK Fiber Core ... Great response by a fan during the Flames game Friday when asked during a Jumbotron contest to name one of the responsibilities of a linesman. "To get in the way of clearing attempts" ... I'll never look at a powder blue jacket or play craps again without thinking of Don Wittman. An avid fan of casinos every stop he made, Canada lost a man whose class was equalled by his grace ... Separated at birth: Flames winger Dustin Boyd and Justin Timberlake.

PARTING SHOTS

None of the players who won events at last year's skills competition are with the Flames (Jeff Friesen was fastest skater, Andrei Zyuzin had the hardest shot and Richie Regehr was the most accurate) prompting one local pundit to joke Alex Tanguay would therefore win this year. Sure enough he tied an NHL record by hitting all four targets in four shots ... Start the debate on putting Curtis Joseph in net for shootouts. He stopped 20 of 22 shots, until Kristian Huselius scored twice, which should be posted on YouTube by this morning. "I hope that's on film so everyone can enjoy it," said Joseph.


Videos

Photos