CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired him in the most seismic trade of the recent NHL offseason, probably the most important transaction in recent franchise history.
But no, history likely isn’t going to look back on it someday as “The Rem Pitlick Trade.”
That deal, of course, was the three-sided swap that brought Erik Karlsson to the Penguins from San Jose, as well as Pitlick from Montreal.
The Canadiens had been enlisted in the negotiations to facilitate the Penguins’ acquisition of Karlsson, and Pitlick ended up being a piece of the personnel puzzle that made things work.
But even though he wasn’t the Penguins’ primary target in the exchange, Pitlick said after Day 2 of training camp Friday that he’s “really excited” about the opportunity he has here.
“It’s a pleasant surprise to be able to come to an organization like this, with so much culture, so much history,” he said.
Mind you, the Canadiens have a bit of history themselves — there are, after all, 24 Stanley Cup banners hanging in the Bell Centre in Montreal — and they are hoping that the young talent they are collecting will allow them to chase another championship or two in the future.
When last season ended, Pitlick had little reason to believe Montreal would be interested in moving him, although he allowed that he understood it was at least a possibility.
“Maybe a little bit, but at the same time, maybe not,” he said. “It was definitely a surprise.”
Pitlick, the son of former NHL defenseman Lance Pitlick, showed some offensive ability during stints in the USHL, college and the American Hockey League, and totalled 15 goals and 22 assists in 66 games while splitting the 2021-22 season between Minnesota and Montreal.
His offensive output slipped a bit last season, as he put up six goals and nine assists in 46 games, but the Pittsburgh Penguins won’t necessarily be counting on him to put up big numbers, since he’s one of many players competing for jobs on the third and fourth lines, rather than the No. 1 or No. 2 unit.
Not that having to battle for his place on the roster is anything new for Pitlick.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a scenario, in my entire life, where there wasn’t competition,” he said. “I think that’s the game. You’re playing against teams, you’re playing against guys. That’s part of it. It’s just a different opportunity, a different (form) of the same thing.”
There are more NHL-caliber forwards vying for them than there are spots available, so few of the bottom-six candidates are guaranteed anything, but Pitlick has qualities that should serve him well.
“There’s definitely a lot of (competition),” he said. “I want to bring my speed, bring a little bit of an offensive touch and some some (hockey) IQ out there. I’m a 200-foot player. With my speed, I need to be able to play that style of game, so I’m hoping that I can be a reliable player but also chip in with some offense.
That he’s reputed to play a bit bigger than he actually is — 5-foot-11, 186 pounds — should work to his benefit, too.
Naturally, who claims those places in the Opening Night lineup will be determined by performances during camp and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ seven preseason games, beginning with a home-and-home double-header with Columbus Sunday, but Pitlick isn’t likely to fret about how other candidates do over the next few weeks.
“I always,” he said, “just try to take care of the things I can take care of.”
That’s a list that doesn’t include being part of a trade involving one of the most prolific offensive defensemen in NHL history.