Trading Benoit Pouliot landed the Bruins Seth Griffith (Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Benoit Pouliot’s signing in Boston in 2011 didn’t register as an earth-shaker and nor did his departure, yet both have had lasting impacts on both the player and the Bruins.
Pouliot, a third-liner in Boston who served as a journeyman for years, now has a longterm home. Trading him away helped the Bruins get a top-six right wing.
After playing for five different teams in five years, Pouliot now looks at his 2011-12 campaign in Boston as a major reason as to why, for the first time in his career, he has job security. Pouliot signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Oilers in free agency this summer after post-Boston stops with the Lightning and Rangers.
“It helped me a lot. I think I had best year [to that point] in Boston,” Pouliot said Thursday. “I think I learned a lot about playing defense first and then offense. I think it helped my game a lot and I think I still had a good production year in the role I was put in in Boston. I really enjoyed it and I think it set me up to where I am today.”
The fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Wild, Pouliot fell out of favor in both Minnesota and eventually Montreal before taking a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Bruins, who were looking to fill Michael Ryder‘s spot on the cheap. For his shortcomings with consistency and offensive zone penalties, Pouliot essentially replaced Ryder’s production, scoring 16 goals in the regular season after Ryder scored 18 in each of his last two seasons in Boston.
It’s Pouliot’s exit in Boston that has helped the Bruins now. During the 2012 draft, the B’s traded the rights to the restricted free agent to Tampa for a fifth-round pick and AHLer Michel Ouellet. The Bruins released Ouellet, but the fifth-round pick was used on Seth Griffith, a right wing playing for the London Knights of the OHL. Griffith is now a top-six forward on David Krejci‘s line.
Pouliot scored eight goals and added 12 assists in 34 games for the Lightning in the lockout-shortened season before signing a one-year deal with the Rangers. He turned in a modest regular season of 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points, but he scored some big goals in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup finals and hit free agency with a number of teams interested. The Rangers were among them (“I really wanted to go back,” he said), but Pouliot prioritized term over everything else. The Oilers offered $4 million annually over five years ‘ a major gamble for which the team has been criticized ‘ and he took it.
Now, Pouliot is at the beginning of what should be a lengthy stay in Edmonton. Though he’s only 28, he’s the fourth-oldest forward among a very young crop of offensive talent. His top-five high selection in the draft gives him something in common with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, all of whom are first overall picks.
Pouliot knows what it’s like to be a high pick, but the only advice he feels he should give the trio of first overall picks is to try to avoid a path like the one he’s traveled.
“I’ve been through the worst things possible, I think,” he said. “One-years everywhere and I wasn’t really consistent on my game. It got me to this point where I finally found it and try to bring it every night.
“For them, they’re such good players. There’s still a lot to learn obviously and a lot to do, but they’ll be fine. I’ll try to help them out as much as I can, but at the same time, I don’t see a problem with the young guys we have on our team, because they’re really good. We’ll figure it out.”