Friday, June 12, 2009

Information Leak

Tanguay Not Priority One

With Canadiens info as rare this month as a Russian source for La Presse with credibility, it is with some glee that I can add this latest rumour to the mix.

The Fourth Period (with a record credible enough for me) has signalled that Alex Tanguay's agent has had contact with Bob Gainey. According to the report, it happened (briefly) this Wednesday. Not very interesting in itself, the juicy part of the report was this quote from Tangauy's agent, Bob Sauve:
"I had a discussion with Bob Gainey yesterday and the Canadiens currently have another priority," Sauve told CKAC. "We'll wait for that priority [to be taken care of] and then the Canadiens will speak to us about Alex."

Another priority?

For the sake of our amusement, I am going to assume that this priority is not the sale of the team. For one thing, it will be more fun. For another, if Gainey is unable to think about re-signing players for the Montreal Canadiens because the prospective owners might be in disagreement – this will be the last fun we will have for the forseeable future.

So, a player of higher priority. It's worth reminding ourselves of the possibilities:

1) The Canadiens have 10 pending UFAs they could re-sign
The total without Tanguay, of course, is 9. They are, to refresh our memories: Koivu, Kovalev, Lang, Kostopoulos, Schneider, Komisarek, Bouillon, Dandenault and Brisebois.

If Tanguay is not the priority, Gainey could be looking at Koivu, Kovalev or possibly Komisarek. I think we could rule out Kostopoulos, Brisebois, Bouillon and Dandenault as first signing of the summer. It would be terrible PR, not to mention a poor example of team building. ONly Koivu and Kovalev are realistic after Komo's brutal displays of hit-rather-than-defend.

2) The Canadiens have 5 pending RFAs to re-sign
These guys don't have to be signed by July 1, so traditionally if not signed by now, they'll wait to see what the post-UFA kitty looks like. I don't see that being different this season. The guys are: Plekanec, Higgins, Latendresse, Chipchura and D'Agostini.

3) The Canadiens have long been rumoured to be working on a deal for Lecavalier

This possibility fits as precedent to Tanguay. No use ruling out a good big trade by handing too much money over to a free agent right now.

4) The Canadiens will be signing new UFAs
There's no doubt the Habs will have to bring in new blood if and when they don't re-sign all the outgoing. Gainey might be making July 1 his priority. The one thing that makes me think this less likely is that this strategy would be an awful risk as some targets could yet re-sign with former teams. Gainey may be a lot of things, but risk-taker? Not that I recall.

5) The oft-ignored possibility of trading up in the draft

Just because Gainey hasn't been talking up his ability to trade up since January, it doesn't mean he wouldn't consider it. Players like Tavares, and my preference, Hedman don't come along every year. Whatever one can give for Lecavalier might be enough to move.

6) The Canadiens have another trade in the works

The Habs aren't restricted to dealing for Lecavalier, despite what the media might wish for. We've heard rumblings about Daniel Briere (please no!); but then there could be others: Kovalchuk, Heatley, Doan, Morrow or anyone else you could dream up. All four here can be sourced to my keyboard, but with $25 million to spare, no one is out of bounds, at least for enquiry.

7) Nothing gets done until the exact salary cap number is known

Carries the risk of the waiting for UFAs, as other teams might not operate with such caution as they snap up players who are worth snapping up. The thing that scares me is that Gainey is sometimes this cautious.

8) Tanguay's rights could be traded as a commodity
This is by far the more far-fetched idea. We know that Tanguay signed and delivered only drew a couple of picks for Calgary last spring. Tanguay unsigned in a bull market – that's a low pick, isn't it?

If you take a look at Tanguay, the player, it's perhaps not too surprising that he isn't priority number one for an NHL team – especially one that could be looking for a number one centre and right wing if they sign him as the cornerstone player. However, being Montreal, and the fact that Tanguay does carry the favoured trait of fluency for RDS's second intermission interview; one could see how the French Canadian might have been at least equal top among free agents.

Perhaps it's the romantic in me, but I tend to believe that Bob Sauve's statement indicates trade. The pessimist in me is clearly at play too, as I can't see the Montreal Canadiens asking Tanguay to hold on while they sign this hockey fan's choice of the UFAs – Saku Koivu.

The trade just adds up. But which trade will it be?

Personally, I think the Lecavalier trade is too difficult. I think Tampa will overvalue their centre and will play Montreal off other suitors. I would be surprised if Gainey pulled it off while keeping a grasp on any semblance of his reputation as a good hockey GM.

Lost in all the Lecavalier talk, though, is the clear willingness of Gainey and his team to significantly re-jig their outfit. When a GM is willing to toss in prospects and young players as he clearly was based on previous Vinny leaks, then the transferability to another deal is oh so very do-able.

Discarding the Vinny trade means opening the NHL up in its entirety, with endless targets. But being that we're sensible and like to discuss, let's come up with a list (based on some logic) as to who Tanguay is waiting for here...

My 5 aspirational targets are:

Ilya Kovalchuk
Dany Heatley
Jeff Carter
Ales Hemsky
Number one or two pick 2009

... and for good measure, Martin St Louis (the consistent option from Tampa)

A lot to draw from two sentences. Maybe they were very telling. Then again, maybe two months without a game isn't healthy...

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