Wild Trade Benoit Pouliot To Montreal for Guillaume Latendresse

Austin LindbergCorrespondent INovember 23, 2009

QUEBEC CITY- SEPTEMBER 20: Guillaume Latendresse #84 of the Montreal Canadiens warms up prior to NHL Preseason game against the Boston Bruins on September 20, 2009 at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.  The Bruins defeated the Canadiens 2-1.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild traded former fourth overall pick Benoit Pouliot to the Montreal Canadiens for 22 year-old Guillaume Latendresse Monday afternoon.

Both players had struggled to acclimate to their NHL clubs after promising junior careers.  Pouliot spent the majority of his professional career moving back and forth between Minnesota and the Wild's AHL affiliate in Houston.  Pouliot had career highs in both games played, 37, and points, 11, in 2008-09 but never lived up to the billing of a fourth overall choice.

Latendresse spent significantly more time in the NHL than Pouliot and scored 29, 27, and 26 points in his past three seasons.  Latendresse is known as a player who is not afraid to play physically in the offensive zone, but his defense may be suspect.

Both players have had their fair share of negative press surrounding their names.  When Pouliot discovered he was being sent back to Houston in 2008, he trashed the team locker room.  Meanwhile, Latendresse held a brief sparring match with Patrick Roy in 2006, in which Roy said the only reason Latendresse was playing for the Canadiens was because of his French-Canadian heritage.

Both players had been under-performing this season: Pouliot has four points and has an even plus/minus.  Latendresse has three points and is a minus-four.  It appeared that a change of scenery was inevitable—and welcome from Latendresse.

"I'm excited... I'm looking for a fresh start," Latendresse said after the announcement was made, "A little less media than Montreal, maybe?  That should be fun."

The deal signifies Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher's commitment to building this organization the way he wants it.  Drafting Pouliot was one of the biggest mistakes of the Risebrough era and certainly the most visible on today's team.

When rumors began to leak all the way back in 2006 that Pouliot might be a bust, Risebrough tried to deal Pouliot any chance he got.  The return was never there; Risebrough was unable to move his bust.

For Fletcher to get near-equal value in potential for Pouliot is a coup.  Although Latendresse's season has been sub-par, his production has been historically better than Pouliot's.

To give up on a top five pick is depressing, but to get another young player with potential in return is as much as any fan can ask for.  Maybe getting out of the spotlight of Montreal is what Latendresse needed to flourish, and maybe the wide open East will give Pouliot a second chance.