For the second time this season, Calgary Flames forward Alex Tanguay has become the hot topic of trade rumors.
Back in October, wild speculation out of Montreal had Tanguay on his way to the Canadiens, straight up for veteran winger Alexei Kovalev, based on the premise that Tanguay wasn’t happy playing for new Flames head coach Mike Keenan.
Tanguay denied that rumor, reminding everyone of his “no-trade” clause and how much he enjoyed playing in Calgary. But since then he’s no longer playing on Jarome Iginla’s line, fueling speculation of problems with Keenan.
Media concern over Flames GM Darryl Sutter’s efforts to re-sign free agents Dion Phaneuf, Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius – the latter two eligible for unrestricted free agency in July – further stoked the Tanguay trade chatter.
More than one pundit has suggested Sutter needs to move Tanguay’s contract to free up much-needed cap space to re-sign his key free agents.
The Montreal Canadiens’ recent scouting of the Flames and Sutter’s visits to Boston and Montreal only added to the frenzy.
Since mid-January, Tanguay’s been linked to the Montreal Canadiens for Kovalev or Michael Ryder, to Toronto for Mats Sundin and to Florida for Olli Jokinen.
He has a “no-trade” clause in his contract and both he and Sutter have denied he was seeking a trade or was asked to waive his clause.
However, recent reports from Calgary suggest neither side is completely ruling out a possible trade by the deadline. Sutter suggested if he were to move Tanguay he’d want a substantial return, while Tanguay is taking what one Calgary paper called a “wait and see” approach.
Assuming for a moment Tanguay relents to a trade, a potential stumbling block would be the remaining year on his contract.
Under the current CBA, only two players with expensive multi-year contracts – Sergei Fedorov and Joe Thornton – have been traded during a season, and those trades occurred early in 2005-06.
Tanguay’s contract may only be for one more season, but $5.375 million –the cap hit to any club that acquires him – is still a lot of money to fit under a salary cap, especially when it’s unknown what next season’s cap will be.
Players with expensive contracts tend to be dealt in the off-season, when general managers know what the cap ceiling is for the next season and how much cap space they have to work with.
It can be argued that a straight-up trade of Tanguay for Jokinen would work, as their salaries are similar, but with the Panthers within striking distance of a playoff berth, it’s unlikely Jokinen would bail on them now.
Even if Sutter trades Tanguay by the Feb. 26 deadline, it might not give him enough cap room to re-sign Phaneuf and still make competitive bids for Langkow or Huselius.
The Calgary Sun observed the Flames presently have over $38 million committed to next season’s payroll. Moving Tanguay would knock that down to around $33 million, but if the combined raises for Phaneuf, Langkow and Huselius total $14 million (a conservative estimate), that would push the payroll up over $48 million, leaving roughly $6 million to figure out the rest of the roster.
It’s possible Tanguay could be dealt by the deadline, but considering all the factors it doesn’t seem likely.
• With the Feb. 26 trade deadline just over a month away, contract talks between Marian Hossa and the Atlanta Thrashers have stepped up, and naturally so have the trade rumors.
Hossa’s been linked with Detroit, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Minnesota, Boston, Dallas and Vancouver, but Thrashers GM Don Waddell insists he’ll be a buyer, not a seller, at the trade deadline and remains keen to get Hossa under contract.
Even if Hossa isn’t re-signed by the deadline and opts to test this summer’s free agent market, Waddell probably won’t move him if his team is still in the thick of the playoff chase.
• The Toronto media continues to fantasize over potential returns for the Toronto Maple Leafs if only their captain Mats Sundin would come to his senses and waive his “no-trade” clause.
But, as Sundin has repeatedly stated, he’s not giving up on his team and as long as the Maple Leafs have a legitimate shot at a post-season berth, Sundin won’t be going anywhere.
• Rumors are also heating up over the possibility of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Blake waiving his “no-trade” clause, but he recently clarified his situation to The Globe & Mail, saying he isn’t seeking a trade, nor has Kings management approached him.
Blake, however, didn’t rule out the possibility, so expect his name to keep popping up in trade talk.
• Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell recently told his agent to postpone contract talks with the club until the off-season.
Campbell is an unrestricted free agent this summer and his decision sparked concern amongst Sabres fans that once again management’s bungling could result in yet another star player lost to the UFA market.
Last summer Buffalo lost forwards Daniel Briere and Chris Drury to free agency, due in part to the club’s then-practice of not negotiating during the season.
GM Darcy Regier quickly squashed speculation Campbell may be available by the trade deadline, stating his intent remains to re-sign the blueliner prior to July 1.
It would be wise for the Sabres to get Campbell under contract. Losing another star to free agency sends the wrong message to the players and fans. That being, the Sabres hierarchy is more concerned with saving money than investing in a winner.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, www.spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.