The Ottawa Senators have made their first 'big' foray into the open market and will ink former Minnesota Wild forward Guillaume Latendresse should he pass his physical. Pierre Lebrun states that it will be a one-year deal worth $1.2 million should his health not be an issue.
Guillaume Latendresse is in Ottawa for a medical. If he pass it, he'll play with the Senators next season.— Renaud P Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) July 1, 2012
Heading into free agency, one of Ottawa's clear needs was a big power forward who can potentially add some size and skill to either of the team's top two lines. Being able to fill such a need and to do it at such a relatively efficient cost is difficult to do.
Albeit, it's one that is not without some risk.
Coming off a two-year deal worth an average annual value of $2.5 million, Latendresse struggled to stay in Minnesota's lineup. Over the past two seasons, concussions have limited the 25-year old forward to 27 combined games. He was slated to become a restricted free agent but because of the inherent risk associated with any player who has a history of concussions, Minnesota believed it was not worth the risk to give Latendresse a qualifying offer of $2.6 million.
Unfortunately, there have also been concerns with Latendresse’s motivation too. In a piece for the Star-Tribune, Michael Russo talked with Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher about the possibility of bringing Latendresse back.
"I just want to get a sense where he is healthwise and fitnesswise and mentally," Fletcher said. "He's shown he can be a good player when he's healthy and motivated, and that's the key. Is he healthy and is he motivated?"
After finally being diagnosed as symptom-free, having missed out on playing much of the past two seasons, Latendresse should have plenty of personal motivation heading into this season. Although I do not know how the bonus structure of Latendresse’s contract is structured, because he missed more than 100+ days on injured reserve last season, he qualifies for performance bonuses. With these financial incentives, the Senators are gambling that motivation won’t be an issue but with the luxury of having Paul MacLean as a head coach, I like Ottawa’s odds even more.
When healthy, Latendresse has proven that he can be an effective player. In his last full season (2009/10), he scored 27 goals and had 40 points. During that season, relative to his teammates and a low an offensive zone start rate that was less than 50-percent, Latendresse proved that he could be a decent puck possession player. He wasn’t just some one-year wonder either, he showed that he could contribute offensively and put up some efficient puck possession metrics in Montreal too. Last season he was buried with 40% zone-starts on a bad Wild team and still produced 2.25 shots per game, that would have put him 5th on the Sens last year.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s difficult to assess this signing on its own without seeing what the organization does next. With a glut of forwards and forward prospects who are knocking on the door, this move may be the first in a series of transactions that allows them to parlay some of their forward quantity for some quality – quality that will hopefully land someone on their blue line.