With the fourth overall pick of the 2005 draft, the Minnesota Wild end up with Guillaume Latendresse.
The Benoit Pouliot time will go down as one of the more disappointing in the Wild's brief history, and his departure comes almost with a whimper, after Monday's trade of Pouliot straight-up to Montreal for Latendresse, chosen in the same draft year, 45th overall.
Looking at just the stats, the winner of the trade seems to be Minnesota, as Latendresse has nearly as many NHL goals (48) as Pouliot has NHL games (65).
Selected fourth overall, Pouliot never materialized into, well, anything with Minnesota. Whether that was never getting a chance to show what he could do - again, 65 NHL games since being drafted in 2005 - or because he never proved himself worthy of more playing time, Minnesota fans can rue their team not drafting Devin Setoguchi (eighth overall), Anze Kopitar (11th), Marc Staal (12th) or T.J. Oshie (24th).
Given that Pouliot didn't exactly light up the AHL either, the fact that Chuck Fletcher acquired anything worth more than a roll of stick tape can be considered a win.
Here's the problem, Minnesota: Many Montreal fans feel the same way about Latendresse.
Pouliot's potential was never realized in Minnesota. On the other hand, Latendresse arrived in Montreal with a splash, scoring 16 goals with 13 assists in his rookie season (2006-07) seeing role-player minutes. Those numbers are still career-highs. Latendresse appeared in fewer games as his time in Montreal went along, and his numbers went down. He never managed to take the next step. This season, he has just two goals and one assist in 23 games. Pouliot, in 14 games, has two goals and two assists. Was he starting to figure it out? Hard to say.
The consensus seems to be Pouliot has more potential than Latendresse. Both players have similar statures - Pouliot is 23, stands 6-3 and weighs 199 pounds; Latendresse is 22, and is 6-2 and 230. Their contracts are the same, $803K that expires at the end of this season. Both will be restricted free agents in 2010.
I haven't read comments from Minnesota fans, but I'd imagine there's some kind of split in two factions: One that's glad Pouliot is gone, the other saying Minnesota should've gotten more for a former fourth-overall pick.
Canadiens fans are split the same way. Some think they got a steal getting Pouliot for Latendresse. Others think Latendresse was, and will be, better than Pouliot.
It's probably going to take a couple years before a winner is determined from this trade, if there even will be a winner. This is very much a "change of scenery" for both players involved. Pouliot may erupt in Montreal or his career may stay the same as it is now. Same with Latendresse.
Instant analysis says Minnesota may have gotten the better of the trade. But a move like this isn't made just for immediate help, and if Latendresse is used as little as Pouliot was, then it's a sideways move.
Only time will tell.