Guillaume Latendresse won’t be returning to the Minnesota Wild in 2012-13, but it’s not for a lack of a contract offer. According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, the Wild offered Latendresse a one year contract with performance incentives, but Latendresse has elected to pass on the offer and see what he can fetch on the open market.
It may seem like a curious move at a passing glance, but Latendresse’s motivation is pretty straightforward: He wants to move closer to his four year old son, Hayden, who lives in Montreal.
What constitutes “closer to Montreal” is a bit ambiguous at this point because almost half of the league is geographically closer to Montreal than Minneapolis is. What we do know is that Latendresse is keeping every option open to land a job with one of those squads.
The Wild offered Latendresse a one-year contract with performance bonuses, sources say. The bonuses are permissible under the collective bargaining agreement for players who have 400 pro games (played or missed) that spent 100 days on injured reserve in the final year of his contract.
“It’s not that I didn’t want to go back,” Latendresse said. “It’s not that the contract was not good. It’s not that I didn’t like the way the team was working or anything. It’s really a personal matter more than anything. I would have loved to go back to Minnesota, but sometimes you have to make decisions for your family and for your future.
“And I think my son would be better if he could be closer to me.”
Essentially, what Latendresse is saying is he wants to sign anywhere east of Minnesota and most likely in the north part of the country or Eastern Canada.
The Canadiens drafted Latendresse. It is his hometown team. They have a new coach (Michel Therrien) and new GM (Marc Bergevin) from when the Habs traded him to Minnesota for Benoit Pouliot in Nov. 2009.
I asked Latendresse if he would like to return to Montreal. It sure sounds like that’s in the back of his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see July 1 if something happens and if they’re open to take me back. But as far as now, I don’t know. I don’t close any doors. But for sure, if they want me back, it might be something interesting. But I don’t want to say yes or no because I don’t know what’s their plans, so I keep every door open.”
Except Minnesota, that is.
Latendresse is a bit of a conundrum because there are so many pros and cons in his game. Plenty of teams will be tempted by his theoretical price tag which will surely be down from the $2.5 million annual cap hit he earned from the Wild in 2010-11. Plenty of teams will be tempted by his potential which he was beginning to reach in 2009-10 after being traded to Minnesota when he scored 37 points in 55 games, up from the three points in 23 games he scored with the Habs prior to the deal.
The issue is whether or not it will be enough to convince a team that he’s worth a roster spot.
Latendresse’s work ethic concerns are well pronounced throughout his career. His reluctance to take on teams’ off-season training regimens is well known and many attribute that laziness to the second problem in his puzzle — his susceptibility to injury.
As Russo notes, Latendresse has only played 27 games over the last two seasons — 11 in 2010-11, and 16 in 2011-12. His 15 point output wasn’t bad production in that span, especially on a generally offensively challenged Wild team, but it’s hard to make a firm commitment to a player that has played a hair over a quarter of a single season in the last 164 games.
Montreal will, without a doubt, be the team to watch here. They enter year one of their rebuild under Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien with $24 million in cap space. The franchise has knowledge of his past and he could very well be given a new lease on life with the Habs now that the Gainey era has been purged from the team.
If they feel they could get enough out of him by allowing him to play near his son, the fit makes sense. They’d be getting a third line player who can fill in on the second unit and at 25 years old Latendresse is far from being ‘past his prime’. He still has another four or five years of peak physical condition in him before you can write him off for good. Assuming the Habs don’t see the injury history as too big a deterrent, it should be a positive fit for both parties.
Other players here could be the likes of the Islanders, Rangers or Devils who will be looking for affordable options up front that can contribute in versatile ways and are a stone’s throw from Montreal. Again though, they aren’t as familiar with the player, could be scared off by his lax reputation and may not be comfortable committing money to someone with his pronounced injury history.
Montreal is the odds on favorite to be his destination.
Where do you think Latendresse ought to land?