Submitted by Michael Stephens (a.k.a.Â Baumgartner)
Apparently Sidney Crosby still lives with Mario Lemieux. Anyone else find that weird? Dude, youâ€™re almost 23. Youâ€™ve got a Stanley cup ring, an Olympic gold medal, an 8.7 million dollar per year salary (to say nothing of the endorsements). Damn man, move out already. But I digress…
I get the sense that Brian Burke likes to gamble. And heâ€™s got a little over $12 Million in cap space at the table. Itâ€™s safe to assume that high on his list will be re-signing Gustavsson, Kulemin and others, which could bring that total closer to 6 or 7 Million.
The Leafs need at least one or two more offensively gifted wingers. If Burke wants to sincerely sell Torontonians a playoff contending team, he needs to bring someone in who will produce. And on the cheap. The current desire of Leafs fans is for this to be facilitated by trading Kaberle. The hype and speculation around that is well above my pay grade though. So who in the seething masses of UFAdom, hypothetically of course, could Burke look to?
Alex Tanguay. Hear me out. Alex Tanguay, 30, is having a decidedly modest year in Tampa this season. He has 9 goals and 25 assists in 70 games for 34 points this season (after racking up 41 points in 20 fewer games last season in Montreal). Tampa signed him in September of 2009 as some French Connection 2.0 experiment with St Louis and Lecavalier. Since Tanguay is on pace for his lowest single season goal and point total, itâ€™s safe to say that expectations have not been met.
So why am I testifying on this bumâ€™s behalf? History and experience. This is a man who won a Stanley cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 at just 21 years of age (putting up 21 points in 23 playoff games no less). Who better to talk to Luke Schenn or Tyler Bozak about being a key contributor in the playoffs so young? Heâ€™s had the experience of lifting the cup, something no Leaf other than Beauchemin can speak to. Heâ€™s played in 98 playoff games and has scored 59 points, higher totals than any current Leaf. Alex Tanguay has 614 points in 729 career games over the course of ten seasons (the total number of games also speaks to relative durability). Add onto that a career +/- of +155. Heâ€™s only had one season where he wasnâ€™t a plus player (this current one, -2, on a Tampa team that has -37 Goals For/Against differential). And heâ€™s still only 30 years old.
But history is a fickle thing. At age 29, after an injury shortened season, he signed a one year 2.5 million dollar contract with Tampa Bay. The hope being that he would put up 15 â€“ 20 goals and 50 â€“ 60 points, and then find himself a Darcy Tucker â€˜last great contractâ€™ of about 3 â€“ 4 million per season for 4 or 5 years. A lovely retirement package isnâ€™t in the cards due to this seasonâ€™s production. He still needs to prove himself worthy of such a deal.
My modest proposal is this: Why not throw the dice on a one year deal, for 2 â€“ 3 million dollars? This is precisely the sort of gamble that could turn the Leafs into winners. While I feel that Tanguayâ€™s years of putting up a point per game are behind him, he could be just the tonic for the Leafs second line. The Leafs are weak on the left wing, so Tanguay could step in there and find himself with more opportunities to return to his previous 50 â€“ 70 points per season range. Worst case scenario? He has one bad season in Toronto, and heâ€™s gone (maybe even as early as the trade deadline). Heck, Burke was willing to ante up 3 years and 8.7 million on Mikhail Grabovski putting up similar numbers, without a similar pedigree. There are always worse hands one could play.