Friday, August 07, 2009

The Puzzling Case Of Alex Tanguay, Free Agent

Alex Tanguay fired his negligent agent last week (but reported yesterday). It's about time, don't you think?

Agents aside, there has to be some reason teams have not been orderly forming a queue to Alex Tanguay's door. I'm not saying the agent doesn't hold some responsibility here. But let's be honest, if an NHL team wanted Tanguay, really wanted him, they'd have been able to get in touch, circumvent a trouble-maker agent.

So just what are the alternative explanations? I'm can't be sure, but let me speculate:

Tanguay himself is holding up the process

1) Tanguay is being picky

Not an uncommon trait among NHLers. You'll all remember Mats Sundin. Before him there were others. If a player isn't blown away on day 1 with a big offer, what is the rush to sign really? Alex may be waiting for the right situation to fall into place, turning other offers away as he goes. We do know this much:
"Tanguay est fort intéressé à jouer pour le Lightning. On avance qu'il serait prêt à accepter un contrat d'un an juste pour avoir la chance de jouer aux côtés des Vincent Lecavalier, Martin Saint-Louis et Steven Stamkos."

Tanguay's very interested in playing for the Lightning. It's suggested that he'd be prepared to take a one year contract for the chance to play with Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos.

2) Tanguay's being unrealistic
The past few seasons, Tanguay has been a near $6 million man. It may be that he fancies himself the same player as when he signed that contract. While he's probably right about his own skills, what he has to understand is that money has been pouring out into other players' pockets over the time he's been waiting.

You know what, he does realise this. He's no fool. I doubt this is the problem.

A negligent agent botched the process

3) Tanguay's agent missed or didn't return calls
Given Sauve's history and experience, you'd have to think that he didn't. Whether he did or not is something that we'll never know. We do know this: he's been fired. Someone named Tanguay thinks Sauve has something to do with this puzzling situation.

4) Tanguay's agent gave bad advice

Perhaps it was agent not player who misjudged the temperature of the water here with salary and term demands. With the speed at which the Canadiens and other teams filled their needs this July, it wouldn't take much bad judgment to get you to July 4th in a very bad position.

NHL GMs don't prioritise players like Tanguay

5) NHL GMs are waiting for Heatley, Kessel and Zherdev

Tanguay doesn't exist in a vacuum. Heatley and Kessel both represent hotter commodities than Tanguay. It may be that GMs don't want to tie their hands with Tanguay when the could be in the Heatley/Kessel game. The same is true, though to a lesser extent, for players like Zherdev.

6) NHL GMs see him as a complementary player

Early in his career, it would have been fair to suspect that Tanguay was merely a complement to those around him, albeit a very good complement. Really though, I say this because this is what I saw this season from Tanguay. From my limited viewings, I saw him as a very good potentiator for Koivu and/or Kovalev; but he looked like he needed skill to produce.

Perhaps NHL GMs spotted this as well. It could well be that this is holding up the process. For one thing, Tanguay would need a player to be a complement to. No use Nashville or Florida signing him – because why would you spend millions to make a Legwand or a Weiss line slightly more effective. Tanguay is at his best when he potentiates the Sakics, Iginlas and Lecavaliers of the league, where a 25% boost translates into many points and even extra wins.

7) NHL GMs think he's hard work
Again, pure speculation. But one fact that led me to this is the time he had in Calgary. Tanguay did not thrive when he was asked to adopt that system and it may have hurt his value.

When it comes to the Canadiens, I couldn't help but notice that he was a lot chattier when Carbonneau was dispatched. I'm guessing he didn't appreciate Carbonneau's style either.

Two coaches in two years. To an outsider that sometimes looks like the constant in the equation might be the problem, rather than the variable.

8) NHL GMs don't think he's value for money
This goes a little bit with all of the above and will change depending on the salary and term demand. I don't think there's much argument to be made about him not being worth his salary from last season anymore. In a world where you can sign Hossa for a lesser cap hit and lock up Zetterberg for the same amount, Tanguay just doesn't belong there.

But how far has he slid on demands? Let's say to $4 million. Is it possible NHL GMs would balk at that too? I'd suggest that many would.

When it comes to it with Tanguay, I am truly puzzled. His continued availability is baffling to me because despite the fact I call him complementary and even needy, he is still just a very very skillful player.

Back in December, when we played the Flames, I wrote a little treatise on Tanguay. I think it holds today. Yes, he floats, he's dependent on others and is laid back; but hockey is a team game. There is room for an Alex Tanguay on almost any team (I still don't see Nashville, Toronto or Calgary, but the other 27).

His numbers, after all, don't lie. He has 193 career goals to go with 387 career assists in 659 games. Since the lockout, he's assisted on 173 goals over 300 games – a great clip – and shown he can adapt to play with players other than Forsberg and Sakic. His skills are much rarer than a 6'4" frame with no defensive awareness, and are what GMs should be using their money to buy. I can see why 2 consecutive GMs have opted for Cammalleri to replace him, but Brian Gionta and Todd Bertuzzi – these I can't justify...

When it comes to reality and why he's still in limbo, I think it's probably a little from column A, B and C. Tanguay probably needs to be less picky and demanding, his new agent must be better than his old for his case and NHL GMs must meet him in the middle.

If I were entering a pool as to the next player to be signed in this league, my money would be squarely on Tanguay.

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