Who would be left for Flames?

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

OTTAWA -- There have been plenty of trade rumours floating through the hotel hallways ahead of this weekend's NHL Entry Draft.

But none of the whispers have included Alex Tanguay's name.

At least, not yet.

If the Calgary Flames want to make a splash this weekend, Tanguay is the biggest bargaining chip they've got.

But anyone who believes the club should be peddling the left-winger needs to give their head a shake.

Even if the return was something as big as Patrick Marleau or Olli Jokinen -- the two most bandied-about names on the market at the moment -- there would be a gaping hole on the left side. Both Marleau and Jokinen are natural centres.

Who would take Tanguay's place? Dustin Boyd? Marcus Nilson?

The Flames have nothing to gain by trading away the best portside flanker they have under contract for next season.

His salary -- a $5.25-million cap hit -- might seem a bit of a burden when you consider Tanguay is coming off his lowest point total since his rookie campaign.

You could argue, though, the 28-year-old winger became a better all-around player. Maybe he even gained a little mental toughness.

It might take an entire summer of reflection for the allegedly disgruntled star to see it, but taking a prominent role on the penalty kill and being forced to spend most of his offensive minutes with aging teammates like Owen Nolan and Craig Conroy was good for him.

Used to playing with the team's best snipers, he had to dig deep to produce whatever offence he could after being pulled away from Jarome Iginla when Kristian Huselius took over on the top line in December.

It didn't always go well, and Tanguay put much of the blame on himself for a 58-point season, admitting he was distracted by all the media speculation that chased him near the trade deadline.

Tanguay's comments after the playoffs led some to believe he'd be happy to stay in Calgary if his role changed, but would gladly go somewhere else if he wasn't going to be used as an offensive spark once again.

Well, with Huselius about to be extremely overpaid on the free-agent market, there's really no challenge to Tanguay on the top line.

His special-teams play could easily be weighted back in favour of the powerplay as opposed to the penalty kill, and maybe the knowledge of being the go-to playmaker will keep his mind in the game.

Thinking too much might be his biggest problem.

When the distractions died down in the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs, Tanguay was a much different player. Gritty has never been a word used to describe the 6-ft.-1, 189-pounder, but his work along the boards and backchecking stunned more than a few people in the press box.

If he can up his intensity to that level on a consistent basis and return to his point-per-game pace upon being reunited with Iginla, the Flames will have a player worth every bit of that salary cap hit.

This year, there isn't a single free-agent winger out there worth what Tanguay gets paid -- including Huselius.

Flames general manager Darryl Sutter knows that.

He also knows what a huge hole would have to be filled if Tanguay were to be dealt.


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