Cheap, low-risk contracts. Everyone loves them. So much so, that teams like Toronto have abused the left-overs of the market in the past years. Players like Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli and Shawn Matthias have landed them picks and prospects like it’s NHL 16. While they probably won’t do that this year, they’ve presented a model of asset management that teams should consider doing themselves.
Enter unrestricted free agent Alex Tanguay. The 36 year old split time with the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes last season, notching a respectable 35 points in 70 games. He was part of the shipment Colorado sent to Arizona for Boedker, but was likely mostly just a way to make the money work. However, even as a relatively old player who had to start again with a young, struggling team, he didn’t do poorly. 13 of his 35 points came in the last 18 games, which he played with Arizona. Anyways, I really like him, and here’s why.
I want you to look at his production (that’s his goal scoring, playmaking and individual production on that chart). He racks up points at about the rate of a first-liner. Yeah, I’m surprised too. You may not understand how 35 points in 70 games makes a top player, but that’s not the whole story. Tanguay did not get many minutes – over the course of the season he played about 12.5 5v5 minutes a game. When converting his production into a per-60 rate, you see his numbers stand out a bit.
Tanguay put up an impressive 1.7 points per 60 minutes of 5v5 play. To put that into context, that’s ahead of players Stamkos (1.69), Oshie (1.68), Logan Couture (1.61) and Nathan Mackinnon (1.63). That kind of offensive addition can help a lot of teams in different situations. He could be a low-cost power-play addition to a contending team to give that boost, or a minute-logger on a basement team looking to ship him for assets at the deadline.
If we take a specific look at how Tanguay did after he was traded to Arizona, it gets even more impressive. Before I start giving numbers, I want to stress that this is a very small sample, just something to give an idea on how he might do in the right system. In the time he spent with Arizona, he racked 3 goals and 4 assists at 5v5 – a 2.57 points per 60. A season at that pace would place him tied for sixth in the league. Pair that with a 76.5 GF% and you have some insane numbers. Again, he’s not that good, it’s just worth noting.
In terms of possession, Tanguay is very average. He played on two of the worst possession teams last season, Colorado and Arizona, and his corsi stats were almost identical to his team. He had a +0.4 CF% RelTM (relative to his teammates without him), so he wasn’t bad, and he wasn’t great. In terms of goals, however, he stacked a 58.0 GF%, +11.2% relative to his teammates. Remember, however, goals are often too small a sample, so don’t put much stock into that.
One thing I noticed about Alex Tanguay is his insanely high shooting percentage. He has 520 shots in 556 games at 5v5, less than 1 shot at even strength play a game. Pair these stats as well as fellow writer Chris’ (@CorsiGuy) observations, he only shoots when he has a great opportunity. Whether this will aggravate fans and coaches when he doesn’t capitalize on good chances, or maybe make the players around him better by passing so much is unknown. In any case, it’s just something you should know – he had the single highest shooting percentage of the whole NHL since 2007.
To be clear – I don’t think Tanguay is a first-liner, or anything along those lines. If anything, he’ll probably take a decline next year. What he still is is a cheap forward who will in all likelihood put up points, to either squeak a team into the playoffs or fill in spots on bare rosters. Best case scenario – he produces and either helps a contender or nets you a couple of picks/prospects. Worst case he comes off your books in a year. In the end, Tanguay is a great UFA if your heart desires someone who can do that. He made 3.5 million for the past 5 years, but you can expect a huge pay cut for him, especially considering he still isn’t signed. In all likelihood, he’ll go to a training camp or two and hopefully find a home.
HERO Chart courtesy of Own The Puck