Rem Pitlick's stint with the Wild didn't last long.
The former Gophers forward, who grew up in Plymouth, was claimed off waivers by Montreal on Wednesday, wrapping his homecoming barely three months after the Wild acquired him also via waivers.
Unless he's put back on waivers, Pitlick has to stay with the Canadiens. Only once he clears waivers can he accept an assignment to the minors or the taxi squad.
Although brief, Pitlick's tenure with the Wild was memorable.
A training camp arrival after starting his pro career with Nashville, who drafted him in the third round in 2016, Pitlick became just the 32nd player in NHL history to score a hat trick in the same game that included his first goal. That came Nov. 11 at Seattle. He also had a goal in the Winter Classic at Target Field on Jan. 1.
But the former Shattuck-St. Mary's standout, who played three seasons with the Gophers (2016-19), also faced adversity.
Despite joining the team in camp, Pitlick didn't make his debut right away and once he did crack the lineup, he played only one game before getting sidelined with COVID-19.
Last month, Pitlick was a healthy scratch and mentioned making adjustments while also maintaining "a sense of self and how I see the game as well."
Ultimately, though, he didn't stick in the depth role the Wild had open, a spot that another up-and-comer, Connor Dewar, has filled. Even if Pitlick did clear waivers, he was likely on the move to Iowa in the American Hockey League.
Overall, Pitlick finished with six goals and five assists in 20 games.
"Sometimes you gotta get out of your comfort zone in order to have success, certainly at this level," Wild coach Dean Evason said. "We'd love to, but we can't have 20 Kirill Kaprizovs, right? You have to have a mix. When you're putting your lineup together, you look at it and you want to have fits.
"Connor Dewar's played extremely well since coming up. Rem's played well in spurts for us as well. So I don't want to take that away from him. He's competed. He's tried. It's just a situation where we're going to go in another direction."
Kaprizov nearing a return
Barring any unexpected hiccups, Kaprizov will play Friday when the Wild is back in action at Xcel Energy Center against Anaheim.
Kaprizov was hurt a week ago in Boston, suffering an upper-body injury after getting boarded by the Bruins' Trent Frederic. The star forward didn't finish the game and sat out last Saturday vs. Washington but was back practicing Wednesday with the team at Tria Rink in St. Paul.
"He's obviously built firmly," Evason said. "He's in great shape. The players are in such terrific shape they can recover quickly from those types of things, and certainly he's in that category."
Brandon Duhaime also returned to practice Wednesday after being out with COVID-19.
Jon Merrill's family has been based in Denver this season, but a reunion is in the defenseman's future after he signed a three-year, $3.6 million contract extension with the Wild on Tuesday.
"To be able to bring my family here and for them to join me in Minnesota is really important for me and something I've been working for for years now to give my family some sort of stability," said Merrill, who actually finalized the new deal with General Manager Bill Guerin during the Winter Classic festivities. "I'm just really thankful that it's worked out here."
Merrill has roved around the NHL in recent years, suiting up for Vegas for a stretch that included a lengthy stay in the Edmonton playoff bubble in 2020 before splitting last season between Detroit and Montreal.
His family couldn't cross the border to join him in Canada, Merrill said, and that factored into the decision for Merrill's wife and four daughters to remain in Denver this season while Merrill suited up for the Wild.
After signing a one-year deal in July, Merrill has become a fixture on the blue line, appearing in every game and contributing three goals and eight assists.
"It means the world to me to be valued by an organization and to be given an opportunity to play every night and to play as much as I have," Merrill said. "It means the world to me, and I'm really thankful."