BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 19: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal at 12:13 of the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at the TD Garden on December 19, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
I'm going to miss Benoit Pouliot. I think a lot of us share the sentiment, including Peter Chiarelli, who, if he hadan't been hamstrung by Tim Thomas' $5 million cap hit, would have had the money to use to bring back the versatile, if sometimes indecisive forward.
Pouliot's 16 goals in the 2011-12 campaign were the most that he'd scored with one team in any season during his NHL career (he notched 17 in 2009-10 between Minnesota and Montreal), and his 16 assists were one shy of his career high in 2010-11 with the Habs. His five game-winning goals were a career best, and his plus-minus (+18) was ten goals better than his next closest season.
But in the end, it's not about how well the player did individually, it's about how well the player did as a part of the team. And the Bruins didn't go as far as they'd have liked to, despite some superlative individual efforts by Pouliot (as well as on account of some terrible, ill-advised, awful, untimely penalties, maybe).
The Bruins sending Pouliot's rights to Tampa Bay may have been the only play they had when considering the Thomas situation. It's fairly likely that Chiarelli took some time to try to negotiate a deal with the former first-round draft pick, but it's just as likely that Pouliot would have been looking for a multi-year deal in the 2-3 million range - a price tag that would have been reasonable if Chris Kelly weren't so over-valued by team management.
Pouliot playing with Lecavlier or St. Martin is a little scary, but it's likely that he'll fit better into Tampa's system, which protects forwards that don't like playing defense and heaps no offensive responsibility on guys not named Stamkos.
The trouble is that he had fit really well into Boston's system. He wasn't a glue guy like Shawn Thornton or Patrice Bergeron, wasn't a stand-up leader like Andrew Ference or Zdeno Chara and wasn't the guy who the media could take their whips to like Thomas. He was just a role player, a guy who fit well on the second or third line, played hard and contributed.
The Bruins have lots of guys like that who could make their 2012-13 roster. Young guys, skilled guys who could elevate the franchise to another level. Pouliot wasn't that player. But for a million bucks, you couldn't have asked for much more.