"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help this team get to the playoffs and, hopefully, do further damage after that."
-- Alex Tanguay
Rumors that started over the weekend became reality Tuesday as General Manager Brian Lawton got the top-six forward he desired when he signed Tanguay to a one-year deal.
He was given his No. 13 jersey and introduced to the local media during a press conference at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help this team get to the playoffs and, hopefully, do further damage after that," Tanguay said. "But we'll worry about the playoffs first. Obviously the organization has made huge steps in improving the team this offseason and I know (coach) Rick (Tocchet) during his days as (assistant) coach in Colorado. I know what to expect out of him and am looking forward to the opportunity to getting back to the playoffs.
"Knock on wood, I've never missed the playoffs in my career, and hopefully this won't be the first time."
After spending a majority of the offseason upgrading his defense, Lawton got the player he targeted all along on offense.
"We were always looking at our options, but at the end of the day, Alex was always our first choice," Lawton said. "Of course, our coaches are banging on your door all the time and they wanted a top-six forward. Alex fit that."
Tanguay missed 34 games last season -- including two playoff games -- with the Montreal Canadiens due to an injured left shoulder. He had arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder in April to repair a partially torn labrum.
His arrival fills the gap left by the team's buyout of forward Vaclav Prospal in July. Tanguay could see extended time on the top line with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis or become a vital cog on the club's second line alongside sophomore center Steven Stamkos.
Despite his injury last season, Tanguay finished with 16 goals and 41 points in 50 regular-season games. The 29-year-old playmaker has averaged 21 goals and 64 points over nine seasons, including his first six with the Colorado Avalanche.
"I have a history with Alex in Colorado when he put up a lot of numbers," Tocchet said. "The one thing I explained to Brian (Lawton) over the summer was that Alex is the type of player where, in a 2-2 hockey game with 10 minutes left in the third, he'd be the one to make that key pass. I'll probably get on him to shoot the puck more -- he's a big-time passer, but he also has a great shot. He's a game-breaker, a Cup winner and we know there's a lot of hockey left in Alex Tanguay."
Tanguay, who reportedly shunned offers from the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers, suffered a separated shoulder last season in a Dec. 30 game against the Lightning, after being checked hard into the boards by Evgeny Artyukhin. Tanguay confirmed Tuesday that his shoulder is fine and that what happened last season is behind him.
Tanguay also admitted that Lecavalier and St. Louis called to recruit him to the Lightning, who had been in discussions with the unrestricted free agent the past month.
"It's always nice to have guys like that call you," Tanguay said. "I have tremendous respect for both players and am looking forward to the opportunity to playing on the same team with them. I don't know how it'll play out, but I'll leave it up to the coaching staff to decide who plays where."
Tanguay, the No. 12 selection in the 1998 Entry Draft by Colorado, helped the Avalanche to the 2001 Stanley Cup with a two-goal performance in Game 7 of the Final against New Jersey. He moved to Calgary in 2006 and spent two seasons there before he was dealt to Montreal at the 2008 draft for first- and second-round draft picks.
In 659 career regular-season games, Tanguay has 193 goals and 580 points. He has been a plus player every season and is an impressive plus-157 for his career. Tanguay has 19 goals and 59 points in 98 playoff games.
Earlier this offseason, Lawton was determined to upgrade a defense that allowed 3.28 goals per game last campaign -- 27th in the League. That's why he signed veteran Mattias Ohlund to a seven-year deal on July 1, and also signed rugged blueliner Matt Walker and the mobile Kurtis Foster, re-signed defender Lukas Krajicek and traded for Phoenix defenseman David Hale. The Lightning also used the second pick of the 2009 Entry Draft on Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, and signed him to an entry-level contract July 9.
"What we have right now is what we're going to start the season with," Lawton said. "Whether or not we make changes or adjustments won't be determined until our coaches and the rest of our scouts and management have a chance to evaluate the group."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com