Tanguay rejoins Flames

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:10 PM ET

Flames fans can dream all they want about the return of Marc Savard to answer the club's playmaking needs.

However, the odds are infinitely better another former Flame will be recalled on Canada Day: Alex Tanguay.

While some may be sickened at the thought the former castoff may return as the team's biggest off-season acquisition, the man whose stock has made like BP's ever since he asked for a trade out of Cowtown is likely the best fit out there for the cash-strapped club.

It makes sense on so many levels, including financially, as the Flames need to add a top-six forward yet can't afford to throw around significant dollars in the unrestricted free-agent market.

That shouldn't be an issue with Tanguay, whose stock has plummeted to the point he was a bit player in Tampa last year where he had just 10 goals and 37 points in 80 games.

A quick survey of NHL agents yesterday suggested Tanguay's services would probably be secured with an offer in the $1.75 to $2.25-million range annually. Last year, he made $2.5 million and has been all but written off in the hockey world. There will be no bidding war.

A simple promise to give him top minutes on the powerplay and on Jarome Iginla's line — giving him a legitimate shot to revive his career — should give Darryl Sutter the trump card no other team would consider. Tanguay would be a fool to pass it up.

For both Tanguay and the team, it's a low-cost gamble both should be willing to take.

While fans might groan at the prospect, the move would be welcomed with open arms by Iginla, who has missed Tanguay's playmaking ever since the 30-year-old left-winger was traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the draft two years ago. The team hasn't had a top playmaker since.

Let the record show Tanguay previously wanted out of Calgary for no other reason than Mike Keenan.

Coming off a career year in which the former Stanley Cup winner flourished in his first season in Calgary with 22 goals and 81 points in 2006-07, Tanguay's clash with the new coach the following fall sent the winger's career spiralling downward.

Forced to stifle his creativity in favour of defence, Tanguay was demoted from the top powerplay unit and was used as a penalty killer for the first time in his career.

With Kristian Huselius taking Tanguay's spot on the top line alongside Iginla, the veteran who was making $5.3 million as a bit player had little chance to succeed.

As fans grew frustrated with his diminishing productivity and refusal to shoot, so did he as his once-prominent role with the club was stripped of him.

To this day, Iginla still believes "Tangs" is one of the best playmakers he's ever played with, as evidenced by Iginla's 50 goals and career-high 98 points the year they played together.

Iginla told the Calgary Sun last week he believes his team has enough goal-scorers in the lineup but needs a few playmakers to help them along.

Tanguay fits that bill with incredible hands and vision that would also make him a perfect candidate to run the club's woeful powerplay from the blueline.

Tanguay had a lot to do with Dion Phaneuf's early-career powerplay success, as he was the one who so often fed the defenceman perfect passes for him to one-time into the net.

Yes, Tanguay's numbers have slid dramatically each of the last three years, suggesting to many the game has passed him by.

However, it was a shoulder injury that ended his season in Montreal, where he had a respectable 16 goals and 41 points in 50 games.

If shoulder woes had anything to do with last season's embarrassing numbers with the Lightning, the Flames would be able to find that out with a quick physical capable of nullifying any deal.

Otherwise, given Tanguay's age and skill-set, there's reason to believe there's plenty of hockey left in him.

Heck, just before trading him, Sutter said he figured the man once considered one of the game's top five port-siders had the skills to win a scoring title.

Yes, such a move would prompt plenty of moaning from the ever-growing anti-Sutter movement who will suggest Tanguay represents just the latest chapter in the GM's history of signing retreads.

That said, we're not sure any move Sutter makes this summer — assuming he makes one — will be roundly applauded given the growing pessimism in town.

The masses are getting downright hostile these days.

However, given how limited the club's options are and how great their needs are, Tanguay represents perhaps the best fit available.

It should — and very well could — happen when free agency hits tomorrow.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos