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Bolts, Tanguay a Perfect Match

by Mark Pukalo / Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Tanguay took his time this summer going through the process of picking his next home, weighing offers and studying teams. When the time came to make a decision, one group of players intrigued him the most.

Not only was Tanguay, a talented playmaker, a perfect fit for the Lightning, the team was the right fit for him.

“We all want to make as much money as possible,” Tanguay said, after officially signing a one-year deal Tuesday. “That’s human nature. But for me, it was really about the opportunity to play well. Hockey’s always been fun to me. I have been in the league long enough to know what it takes to be successful. I’m going to come here, work as hard as I can and have fun.  I think this team gives me that opportunity. I have no doubts in my mind that this team will be successful this year. That’s why I came here.”

The Lightning was looking to add another top-six forward and targeted Tanguay, who has recorded 580 points in 659 NHL games before his 30th birthday. The 6-foot-1, 189-pound left wing, who has played for Colorado, Calgary and Montreal, averaged at least a point a game in three of his nine seasons and won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2000-01, scoring twice in Game 7 against New Jersey.

Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, an assistant with Colorado when Tanguay was there, said the native of Ste-Justine, Quebec is a big-time passer with an under-rated shot.

“Alex is the type of player that, when it’s a 2-2 hockey game with 10 minutes left in the third period, can make that pass to win the game,” Tocchet said. “He’s a game-breaker. There’s still a lot of hockey left in Alex Tanguay.”

Tanguay is looking to get back on the fast track. He had a down season, by his standards, in 2007-08 with Calgary when he notched 58 points in 78 games and then missed more than a third of the season with a shoulder injury in Montreal a year ago. With the fresh start in Tampa Bay on a team trying to find its way back to contention after two off years, Tocchet said he thinks Tanguay’s stock could soar.

The players have the same opinion.

“To get a guy like him to come to a team – especially the way things went last season – shows that he is willing to dedicate himself to making us a winning team,” Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. “That’s the type of guys you want on your team.”

Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis both made calls to aid the recruiting process. Tanguay said it meant a lot to him to have two players he respected a lot, and from Quebec, say how much they wanted him to wear a new No. 13 Lightning jersey.

Tanguay’s playmaking and unselfishness fit well on the power play and at even strength with guys like Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos and Ryan Malone among others on the roster. Lightning forward Ryan Craig said Tanguay is the type of player who makes others around him better.

“He’s a pretty patient guy and a good decision-maker with the puck,” St. Louis said. “When that happens, with the kind of skill he has, it usually converts to scoring chances. It’s a really big plus for our team to have a guy like him, at that price and at this time in his career. We’re all going to benefit from it and I’m hoping Tangs does, too.”

Tanguay, who turns 30 on November 21 and can play either wing position, was the 12th pick by Colorado in the 1998 NHL Draft while starring with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Junior League. Just one player from that draft has compiled more points than Tanguay in the NHL since (Lecavalier).

In his rookie season of 1999-00, Tanguay had 17 goals and 34 assists in 76 games and had a plus/minus rating of plus-6. Tanguay followed that up with 77 points in his second season, with a plus-35 as the Avs went all the way to the Cup. Tanguay had six goals and 15 assists in 23 playoff games. In all, Tanguay has 59 points in 98 playoff games.

Tanguay was named to the NHL All-Star Game in 2003-04, when he had 79 points in 69 games. He had a career-high 29 goals in 2005-06 and a career-high 81 points with Calgary in 2006-07. He is a plus-157 for his career.

Montreal traded first and second round picks to Calgary for Tanguay in June of 2008, giving him a chance to go home. Tanguay was the Canadiens’ player of the month in October last season, leading the team in goals and assists. The shoulder injury caused him to miss 32 games, but he came back to lead the Habs with 13 points and a plus-8 in March. He said he is injury free.

“No problem,” Tanguay said. “What happened last year is behind me now. I’m looking forward.”

Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton said Tanguay was their first choice to fill another top-six position and the process took about 35 days. There were some anxious moments, but it was all worth the wait.

“We’re thrilled he made the decision to join our organization,” Lawton said. “We felt strongly all along that this was a terrific spot for him.”

Tanguay said having Tocchet as his new coach was a factor. He knows what to expect and believes in his philosophy.

Above all, Tanguay said he is here to make a difference.

“When it comes down to it, I looked at this team, the way things have changed here over the course of the summer,” Tanguay said. “You look at [Mattias] Ohlund and the guys they’ve brought in, and the younger guys taking the next step.  I’d like to be a part of it. I’d like to contribute.

“Knock on wood, but I’ve never missed the playoffs.”
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