March 08 2011 11:17AM
As the Flames roll along on the wave of their on-going hot streak, the question of player valuation has become a hot topic, particularly around pending UFA's Curtis Glencross, Anton Babchuk and Alex Tanguay. The latter has experienced something of renaissance as a Flame after several straight seasons of lackluster results, particularly the horrendous 10-goal, 37-point season he had in Tampa Bay last year.
Despite his poor trend-line, I was a fan of the Tanguay re-signing this past summer, mostly because a one-year, $1.7M deal represented next to no risk. He was also a guy who was relatively effective in his first tour of duty in Calgary and the chance of of him re-discovering his form in town was a worthwhile gamble at that price.
The gamble paid off, insofar as Tanguay's output has returned to career norms. He currently has 18 goals and 54 points in 65 games, a pace that would see him finish around 70 points over a full 82 game schedule. After experiencing a shooting percentage drop to 11.1% in Tampa, he has jumped back up to 19.1% this year for Calgary. Normally that would be a red-flag, but Tanguay is actually one of the most efficient shooters in the NHL with a career average of 18.9% (!!), so that's not an aberrant rate for him. There's also no denying his effect on the team - due to his unique ability to see plays develop and find holes in coverage, Tanguay brings the club's IQ and puck distribution up considerably.
All that said, the results aren't all pointing in one direction for Tanguay, so the question fo whether to re-sign him - and at what price - is a murky one. As Lawrence pointed out in my post on Jokinen and Babchuk, Tanguay hasn't moved the needle in terms of possession when it comes to the the Flames first line. The Iginla, Tanguay combo have faced a lot of second lines and such this year and have started out more often in the offensive zone (zone start = 55%), but are hovering around the .500 mark in terms of corsi nonetheless. So although they are being put into a position to succeed, Tanguay's possession rates are marginal.
This means his production is far more reliant on a team high on-ice shooting percentage of 12.19% at ES, which tends to be untenable over the long-term in the current NHL. There's some suggestion in Tanguay's past that hes a guy who can shift a team's SH% to the good to a small degree (likely owing to his own high SH% and ability to set up others for quality chances), but even with that in mind, 12.19% is the highest ES SH% Tanguay has seen over the last four seasons. That means there is a good chance his his on-ice SH% will regress downwards going forward which is a problem given his lackluster possession rates. A good percentage can float a player even when he's under water in terms of corsi, but things can get ugly awfully quick when the frequency rate sinks.
Tanguay is also 32 years-old next November and has battled shoulder problems the last few years. Considering those factors in concert with his so-so corsi rate and high on-ice SH%, it's entirely possible that he won't replicate his 70 point pace going forward. Tanguay is still clearly a skilled offensive player and he tends to be a capable foil for Jarome Iginla, but there's no shortage of risks involved with signing him to a bigger deal at the conclusion of this season.
It's an open question to what degree Tanguay will value staying in Calgary over seeking to leverage his revival for another big pay day. If it's more the former, maybe the club can lessen their exposure to risk by signing him to another sweetheart deal. If it's more the latter and Tanguay pursues a "market-appropriate" contract for a 70-point forward, then the Flames will have to consider letting him walk.