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Is Alex Tanguay a realistic option for the Canadiens?

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The free agent forward brings some assets to the table, but he would have to earn his spot

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers
Would Tanguay returning to the Habs make sense?
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Alex Tanguay is currently coming off of a 35 point season where he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes at the deadline by the Colorado Avalanche. He is currently looking for a new contract, but not many teams are willing to risk signing the aging forward.

The Canadiens in the meantime are looking to solidify their top six after a miserable season where their offence dried up after a hot start, and they tumbled out of contention.

Should the Canadiens think about signing Alex Tanguay as a solution for their scoring woes?

Pros

Alex Tanguay is a 16-year NHL veteran and is one season removed from a 22-goal 55-point campaign with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014-15. After being traded to the Coyotes at the deadline he played at a pace of 0.72 points per game, which shows that if he deployed correctly he can still be a very productive player.

If you look at the depth chart on left wing for the Montreal Canadiens then you may notice a lot of uncertainty and lack of depth. Max Pacioretty is obviously the top left winger, but after that the options become very uncertain:

  • Artturi Lehkonen: Unproven in the NHL despite very strong play in the Swedish Hockey League. The heir apparent for that second line left winger role, however arrives to training camp as a relatively unknown commodity.
  • Sven Andrighetto: A right winger who started to make his mark in the NHL last season, and is probably looking for a solidified role on the team. He could be asked to transition to the left wing this season.
  • Andrew Shaw: A pest of a player who might be entrusted to provide some grit on the second line, similar to how Brendan Gallagher does it on the first line, except with less offensive talent. Shaw would have to transition over from right wing to fit in this role, however he is arguably much more effective as part of a shutdown line.
  • Daniel Carr: A grinding forward who made his NHL debut last season and was one of the few bright lights in a dismal season before being struck down by the injury bug that brought a sudden end to his season. Highly unlikely to start the season in the NHL because he is the only player not susceptible to waivers out of everyone likely to make the team.
  • Charles Hudon: The leading scorer for the St. John’s IceCaps, Hudon is a scoring forward, but has very little NHL experience thus far. Likely to start in the AHL because there is a glut of forwards, and he doesn’t need to be submitted to waivers.
  • Paul Byron: A speedy forward with lots of heart but minimal offensive talent, best used sparsely on the bottom six, and not in a top six role.

Not only is there no evident answer to the question who should play on the left wing, there is also a serious lack of experience as well.

Tanguay would infuse the team with experience and a known scoring touch, forming a potential fearsome line with Tomas Plekanec and Alexander Radulov.

The Canadiens currently sit at 47 contracts for this upcoming season, with Sergachev, Juulsen, and McNiven sliding another year and have about $2M cap space with a currently projected 23-man roster (and the remaining buyout of PA Parenteau). There would be some room to sign Tanguay to a low-risk low-term contract.

Cons

Tanguay is 36 years old, and would be the second oldest player on the team after Andrei Markov. Age in itself is not a red flag, but there was a decline in his play last season in which he failed to score at least 10 goals in a full season for the first time in his career. He picked up towards the end, but it was an early warning sign that he is in a steep decline. In addition, he also hasn’t played any playoff hockey since 2008-09 when he was a part of the Montreal Canadiens, and the Canadiens are bulking up on playoff-tested players who can play a full 82-game calendar plus a deep playoff run.

Signing Tanguay would possibly mean that Lehkonen doesn’t make the team and heads back to Sweden for the entire season, burning a year of restricted free agency eligibility. Should Lehkonen also make the team, the Habs will have to place someone on waivers in order to make space on the team for Tanguay (likely to be Byron, Flynn, or Andrighetto). There is of course the fear that if Tanguay were to be given an opportunity, then the Canadiens coaching staff would automatically choose the veteran over a more worthy youngster.

Signing Tanguay would only be a stopgap solution that might potentially damage the long-term development of younger players who are NHL-ready, and not really address the long-term issue that the Canadiens are failing to develop scoring forwards.

The bottom line

Tanguay may be in the twilight of his NHL career, but his offensive numbers are good enough that he should probably be considered an option for an offensive role with the Canadiens this upcoming season.

If he would be willing to accept a PTO contract from the Canadiens, he would be able to compete with the other aforementioned players during training camp, at no risk to the Habs whatsoever.

Then Tanguay would be able to showcase his toolkit, and should he outperform everyone else considered for that second line left wing position he would earn himself a contract from the team. The Canadiens would get to broaden their list of candidates, and would choose the best player for the left wing position for this upcoming season.

Although the long-term concern remains, this upcoming season is a season that the Canadiens must consider a must-win because of the impending end of Carey Price’s contract which is, in essence, when the window closes on any championship aspirations in the near future as his salary will rocket up, restricting the Canadiens on who they can sign in future years. Tanguay is potential piece of that winning team that just might be worth the risk.