Alex Tanguay on his time playing with the ‘ultra-competitive’ Jarome Iginla

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The type of passes didn’t matter. They could have been hard to the tape or maybe a little off the tape, but Jarome Iginla would make sure that the pucks coming off of Alex Tanguay’s stick would find a way to the net. Many, many times those pucks would find their way into the net. Such was the life of playing alongside a forward who would finish his career with 625 goals.

“The shooting ability was second to none,” Tanguay told Pro Hockey Talk recently. “When you go from thinking about how he was able to one-time the puck, there’s very few people that can shoot the puck like Jarome Iginla does. You think of [Alex] Ovechkin, you think of [Steven] Stamkos, you think of guys like that as far as ability to shoot — that’s when I look at Jarome. 

“I remember how hard and where I was passing the puck, no guys would be able to do that. He was truly had a knack for scoring that way. I used to pass it as hard as I could and I knew that he was going to find a way to get it on net and get it hard on net and get in a position where the goalie would not be there. I used to pass it a little on his front foot or make a bad pass on the back foot, and he would still find a way to get it on net. He had very, very unique abilities and we were a good complement in the fact that I was more of a playmaker, more of a passer.”

After joining the Calgary Flames before the 2006-07 NHL season, Tanguay found himself playing with Iginla. The playmaker and the goal scorer. It would come as no surprise that the two clicked well on a line together, with Iginla scoring 39 times and hitting the 90-point total for the second time in his career. Tanguay would reach the 20-goal mark for the fourth straight season and also record career highs with 59 assists and 81 points.

Tanguay, who’s now an analyst on NHL Network, would spend one more season in Calgary before returning for the start of the 2010-11 campaign. That would be the second of five straight playoff-less springs for the Flames. And as the lockout-shortened 2013 season began and success didn’t arrive, it was time for the team to head in a different direction.

[Jarome Iginla retires from the NHL]

That direction meant trading their captain and heart and soul in Iginla. The split was inevitable, but it was difficult. He had been woven into the fabric of the city, set down roots there and had grown up there following the trade from Dallas when he was 18 years old.

“Most Calgary Flames fans would have like to seen him a Flame for his whole career but it just didn’t work out that way,” Tanguay said. “The team was going in a different direction at the time. They were going to go younger. They were going to make some changes to draft some of the core players that they have now. To get that and to start doing that, they traded [Jay] Bouwmeester, they traded Jarome, they traded assets to get more value to rebuild.

“But it was sad. As a friend, I was sad to see Jarome go, for sure.”

The topic of Iginla’s eventual departure wasn’t a huge one topic inside the Flames’ dressing room. It would come up, but most of the conversations between the players were about their families and other things happening in their lives. 

“It was probably more in his mind than the rest of us,” said Tanguay. “Most athletes go through situations like that and he handled it like a true professional and true gentleman.”

When Iginla was finally traded in late March to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the void inside the room was noticeable. The Flames would finish near the bottom of the Pacific Division and Western Conference as a new era dawned. The star attraction was gone.

“For superstars like this, the rupture is always a little bit harder,” said Tanguay. “Everything they mean in the city for the organization, for the fans… those are guys that sell your seats because, let’s be honest, most people don’t go pay to see the guys at the bottom of the lineup — they go to see the superstars. They’re the ones that sell the jerseys. They’re the ones that your fans want to see first and foremost and certainly Jarome was that for the better part [16] years in Calgary.”

Iginla and Tanguay wouldn’t be separated for long. Knowing how well they performed together in Calgary, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic had Tanguay sell Iginla on coming to join the Colorado Avalanche. It worked, and a three-year deal was hammered out ahead of the 2014-15 season.

Despite being apart for a season-and-a-half, the chemistry still was present when Iginla and Tanguay hopped over the boards together. They knew how to work together and often times there wasn’t a need to communicate while on the ice. Each player knew where the other would be and they excelled with Iginla scoring 29 goals and Tanguay hitting 20 goals and recording 55 points, his best totals in four seasons. 

“All those little things that you work on for years, sometimes it helps to have that chemistry with guys and that’s why you see some of the best players in today’s game — [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Anze] Kopitar — sometimes there’s certain guys that click with them,” said Tanguay.

“Jarome was a superstar in the way that he scored goals and the way that he played in Calgary and he connected with a few of those guys. You think of [Craig] Conroy who was brought back because he had a great connection with him. You think of [Mike] Cammalleri [who] had a couple of stints with him in Calgary. I guess I was lucky enough to fall in that trail for a little bit.”

What put Iginla into the superstar class was his desire, added Tanguay. He was a prototypical power forward who, if you were in the way, would make sure you moved or were moved. The traits he possessed, on and off the ice, that made him great and into a future Hall of Famer, were appreciated by those around him.

“The thing that I liked about him was he was ultra-competitive and ultra-passionate about what he did,” said Tangauy. “I think that it showed in the way he played. It showed in his character and the integrity he showed off the ice. 

“All in all, he’s one of the guys that for how good he is, he would always make time, he would always be polite with the people around him and that’s a great gift that he had and that he still possesses today.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.