TAMPA — After a busy offseason of moves, many to shore up the defense, Lightning general manager Brian Lawton recognized he still needed to find another top-flight forward and spent the past few months working to get his guy: free-agent wing Alex Tanguay.
"All summer we knew we were light one top-six forward," Lawton said at Saturday's Fan Fest at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Not any more. Lawton and the office of Tanguay's agent confirmed that the sides had agreed to a one-year deal that should be finalized when Tanguay passes a physical this week.
The former Canadien missed a good portion of last season after he separated his left shoulder when then-Lightning forward Evgeny Artyukhin checked him to the boards in December. Though limited to 50 games, he finished with 16 goals and 25 assists and was plus-13 with five power-play goals.
"Alex feels good and rested," said David Ettedgui, Tanguay's business manager, who works in the office of agent Steve Kotlowitz. Ettedgui said the shoulder is 100 percent healed.
Said Lawton, "We believe Alex has the type of skill and is the right type of fit as a hockey player and as a person to help us get back to winning consistently, so we're very, very excited."
Tanguay, 29, has been a sought-after asset, and it's thought the Wild, and perhaps the Islanders, were in competition with Tampa Bay. Ettedgui said the Lightning didn't offer the largest contract, though he declined to get into specifics. It's thought the deal will be worth close to $2.5 million, which would be less than half of what he made last year in Montreal ($5.2 million).
"Sometimes money is not as important for us. It was very important we find the best fit possible," Ettedgui said.
The Lightning would seem to offer that to a player coming off two down seasons and trying to re-establish his credentials with an eye toward a bigger payday down the road.
"We really think it's a great situation for both parties here," Lawton said. "It's a chance for him to play with some really high-end, high-skill players, which we think he is. And we think together, it should be a nice combination."
Tanguay will join center Vinny Lecavalier, right wing Marty St. Louis, center Steven Stamkos and left wing Ryan Malone in what looms as a dynamic quintet up front.
"We've got five really incredible players," Lawton said. "That means we're going to have to count on one of our other young players to earn a spot or somebody on the team to step up. But it allows a coach to move pairs around and have a little extra juice on one of the lines."
Don't be surprised if Tanguay teams with Lecavalier, who's also looking to rebound a bit. Tanguay is known for his ability to hold on to the puck and make pinpoint passes, and Lecavalier, a finisher, needs someone to get him the puck.
"He's such a great passer and can score," said Lecavalier, who played with Tanguay for Canada at the 1998 world junior championships. "He brings a lot to the team, so I'm excited."
Lecavalier had a role in luring Tanguay. He called him twice, including Friday night. "(Tanguay) asked me about Tampa," Lecavalier said, "and I told him about coming to the team and the direction it is going."
St. Louis also worked the phones as the Lightning used a team effort to woo Tanguay. "He's a pretty big-time player," St. Louis said. "He's got a lot of skill and a lot of experience. … This is going to make our hockey team better right away."
Tanguay also knows coach Rick Tocchet well. Tocchet was an Avalanche assistant (2003-04) when Tanguay played there.
"(Tanguay) feels fully confident playing for him," Ettedgui said.
Odds and ends: Goalie Mike Smith said during a Q&A with season-ticket holders that he has recovered from his "concussion issue" and "I will be ready for the start for the season." … Defenseman Mike Lundin is the Lightning's lone remaining restricted free agent. Lawton said he has "no doubt we'll get that done soon." … The announced Fan Fest attendance was 9,212.