Guillaume Latendresse has celebrated 13 goals since becoming a member of the Wild. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
In an age where the salary cap is a reality, the team you see in October is astonishingly close to the one you see in April. The three or four new faces are generally kids replacing an injured vet.
Trades are a rarity.
Not only does a GM want to find the right fit in terms of outgoing players versus incoming players, but a GM also has to find the right fit in terms of outgoing versus incoming salary. And not just for this year, either, but also for future seasons.
So when a trade does go down, it has more of a positive impact on the production of the players who are moved than in the pre-salary-cap era. Coaches are generally eager to shake things up and try something new – often with their scoring line. They also want to make their boss look good. So the newly acquired player will see more – and better – ice time.
A prime example of this is the swap of Benoit Pouliot to the Canadiens for Guillaume Latendresse to the Wild.
Here are two players of similar age and similar starts to their pro careers. Latendresse, the bulkier of the two, plays a hard-hitting power game that will be quite suitable for the second line when he gets his scoring touch (as he seems to have now, but more on that later).
Pouliot also plays a rough game, but not so much with bodychecks as with stick work or, in one instance, dropping the gloves. Both specialize in putting the puck in the net, although given their draft positions (Pouliot was fourth overall whereas Latendresse was 45th overall in 2005), Pouliot’s upside is much higher.
Latendresse made an initial splash in Montreal, making the team as a 19-year-old and posting 29 points in his first season. In the two-plus seasons since, however, he has either moved sideways or regressed.
He received a new lease on life upon arriving in Minnesota, however. Latendresse has 19 points in 26 games with the Wild, with 15 of those coming in the past 15 games after he returned from a bout with the flu.
And although he is receiving top-six ice time now, he’s only got one power play point, so there is wiggle-room for more. In the final 33 games, I’m thinking you can look for 23 points – with at least 10 of them being goals. Next year, look for 30 goals and 50 to 55 points before Latendresse settles in as a 60-point player (health permitting) after that.
Meanwhile, Pouliot finds himself on a plum spot on the top line in Montreal. He has nine points in 13 contests for the Habs. He may not be doing quite as well as Latendresse is in Minnesota, but he has the potential to put up even more points now that he’s getting top-line minutes.
Through his career, Pouliot has taken longer than most prospects to get accustomed to a new league. He didn’t make Sudbury (Ontario League) as a 17-year-old, but at 18 he made enough of a splash to warrant being a high NHL draft pick.
In the American League, he didn’t get anywhere close to a point-per-game until just last season, when he notched 24 in 30 games. As such, I expect about 15 to 18 points in the final 31 games this season and then a 45-point season next year.
But in two or three seasons I still believe he can be a 70-point winger on the top line; you just have to be patient.
None of this would have happened for these two players if they weren’t given a change of scenery. So whenever you see younger, unproven players changing teams, be sure to raise a Spockian eyebrow and pay close attention to what happens.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.