Alex Tanguay perfectly fits the profile of what the Lightning is looking for in a top-six forward. The big, strong left wing is known for his ability to control the puck and make a pinpoint pass, exactly what center Vinny Lecavalier needs in a linemate. Tanguay also is coming off two down seasons, and in GM Brian Lawton's hunt for bargains, that might be Tampa Bay's ace in the hole. Why not, he will say, play for one year at a reduced rate, pile up big numbers next to a rejuvenated and healthy Lecavalier, and parlay that into a big next contract? That argument will resonate the longer Tanguay, or any of the remaining unrestricted free agent forwards, remains unsigned. The Lightning could opt for a trade. With salary going out in return, it is a better way to control a $46.72 million payroll. Or the Lightning could do nothing, rendering this an academic exercise. Funny thing: All this might have been avoided had highly regarded 2007 draft pick Johan Harju not signed to play in Russia. "No movement or anything, nothing yet," Lawton said of the search. "We're working on it every day. We'll stay on it until we find some solutions." Here are snapshots of some of those potential solutions, though it seems Tanguay tops the list.
Position: Left wing
Height/weight: 6-1, 189
Born: St. Justine, Quebec
The upside: If a player has something to prove, it is Tanguay, whose goal production has slipped every season since a career-best 29 in 2005-06 for the Avalanche and despite tremendous one-on-one moves. Can the Lightning take advantage? It is unlikely he comes close to last season's $5.375 million salary. Playing with Lecavalier might be the way back.
The downside: The stats are not good, lately. Tanguay was sidelined for a significant time with a shoulder injury last season. But his 16 goals were his fewest since 2001-02, and his 41 points were a career worst. He also has just 13 power-play goals over the past three seasons. Needs to shoot more.
Position: Right wing
Height/weight: 6 feet, 190
Born: Plzen, Czech Republic
The upside: Generally reliable in 13 seasons, including two in which he had 30 goals and seven others in which he had 20. With good speed and a deceptive shot, Sykora had 53 goals and 109 points in 157 games over the past two seasons. Best, though, were his 28 power-play goals and 14 winners.
The downside: Has a reputation of getting rattled in physical games and not liking in-your-face coaching. Whether it was a lingering upper-body injury or rumored differences with coach Dan Bylsma, Sykora had just four goals and seven points in 31 games, including playoffs, after Bylsma replaced the fired Michel Therrien.
Position: Right wing
Height/weight: 6-3, 191
Born: Topolcany, Slovakia
The upside: Another former star looking to regain status. Satan scored just 17 goals in 65 games last season for the Penguins and was demoted to the minors. He began his transformation in the playoffs with a goal and six points in 17 games despite playing among the bottom six, and Satan's fierce shot is still effective on the power play.
The downside: He never was known as a passionate player and can get lazy. He is reserved, too. The Lightning is looking for personalities and leadership. Then there's the age thing. In other words, not on Tampa Bay's radar.
Position: Right wing
Height/weight: 6-3, 231
Born: Sudbury, Ontario
The upside: A big body not afraid to park in front of the net or get nasty when needed. Bertuzzi isn't the machine he was early in the decade for the Canucks, but he is a double-digit goal producer who contributes on the power play.
The downside: The Lightning is looking for speed up front (not exactly Bertuzzi's strength), and the team does not need another player who takes bad penalties, especially one who is older. There also is the baggage Bertuzzi carries from the Steve Moore sucker-punch incident in 2003-04. A nonstarter for Tampa Bay.
Height/weight: 5-11, 185
Born: London, Ontario
The upside: Not a player who brings a lot of buzz, but Williams had 19 goals last season in 80 games for the Thrashers and Blue Jackets and was a noteworthy minus-4 for two nonplayoff teams. He had a career-best 21 goals for the 2005-06 Red Wings — seems the more talented his linemates, the better he plays — and can contribute on the power play.
The downside: Is not physical. Sounds like he is headed back to Detroit.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.