Why did Tanguay choose Bolts over Isles, Wild? It was all about the fit

September, 1, 2009

It was Alex Tanguay at the other end of the line Tuesday evening, apologizing for being a little late on his call to your resident hockey hack.

"We're looking at houses," said the talented winger.

Well, at least he's found an NHL home. He didn't officially sign his one-year, $2.5 million contract with Tampa Bay until the first day of September (passing a physical Tuesday), which is late in free agency for a player of his caliber.

Whether it was because teams were wary of his left shoulder injury that shortened his 2008-09 season to 50 games with Montreal or the money simply ran dry on the market after he missed the first, second and third waves of free agency, Tanguay was a pretty big name left out there dangling.

In the end, he received renewed interest from a few clubs, including the New York Islanders and the offensively starved Minnesota Wild, but opted for the Lightning.

"We had talks with other teams, offers that were maybe better financially than this one, but for me, it was a question of having a good fit," Tanguay told ESPN.com in an interview conducted in French. "And it was about finding a team where I'd be an important part, a team I could help, and a team that could also help me perform well. So I'm real happy with this fit."

The Bolts also had two heavy hitters lobbying for Tanguay: Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. How can you say no to that kind of pitch?

"When Martin phoned, I was on the phone with Vincent," Tanguay said with a laugh, adding that he spoke with Lecavalier a few times. "I got them one after the other. They both told me they wanted me in Tampa and asked me if I had any questions about the city and things like that. They talked to me about the team."

Having Rick Tocchet behind the bench was also a valuable asset in Tampa's sales pitch.

"I know Rick Tocchet. He was in Colorado with me for a year and a half," said Tanguay. "I know his personality. That was an important factor that helped in my decision."

Regardless of what line he plays on among the top six forwards, he'll get the chance to play with the likes of St. Louis, Lecavalier, Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos, and that was also an allure.

"I don't know what the coach will want to do in terms of lines, but I'll have good players to play with no matter what," said Tanguay. "There's a lot of potential and talent here on the top two lines. We may really surprise. Our goalie [Mike Smith] is healthy now."

Tanguay views this as a critical year in his NHL career, a chance to re-establish himself.

"Last year, I was hurt and didn't perform like I wanted," said Tanguay, who still put up 41 points in 50 games with the Habs. "The year before in Calgary, it wasn't my best year. I'm 29 years old and it's really important for me to have a good year and play at the caliber I know I can play at."

Tanguay, who says his left shoulder is fine, exited Montreal along with Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Mike Komisarek and Chris Higgins. He doesn't begrudge the Habs, but it's clear he's a little perplexed about never hearing from them this offseason.

"The Canadiens never made me an offer, so you have to believe they weren't interested," he said. "They didn't give me any reasons why they didn't make me an offer. But it's a business and they did what they felt was the right thing for them."

Lightning GM Brian Lawton made a smart move here. If Tanguay returns to his standard of excellence, he's a steal at $2.5 million. If it doesn't work out, it's not a big gamble. And it certainly doesn't hurt to make Lecavalier happy.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?