Since being claimed off of waivers from the Minnesota Wild, Rem Pitlick has been an extremely fun piece in the Montreal Canadiens’ forward group. He’s had stunning shootout goals, last second game-tying goals, and plenty more.
However, as the season approaches its end and Pitlick has seen his shooting percentage drop closer to normal ranges, the Canadiens have gotten a much clearer look at what kind of player he is. The truth is he clearly has offensive upside, but not quite enough to be a top-six forward. He has defensive flaws, but perhaps not as aggressively bad as the last stretch of games has shown.
Right now one thing is certain: he is being asked to play in a role that might suit his offensive talents, but it doesn’t suit his overall ability and may be hurting both him and his current linemates.
Against Toronto, he was the fifth-most-used forward at five-on-five, and posted an expected-goals-for percentage of 6.62%, worst on the team by a fair margin. While one game doesn’t define a season, since he was elevated to the Canadiens’ top line, he’s struggled to put together solid performances. However, when he was playing lower in the lineup after being acquired, even at the centre position, he was able to thrive with easier assignments against lesser competition.
Part of Martin St. Louis’s job has been to help analyze the roster and to see who fits the future plans that Kent Hughes has. There is no “easy” answer for finding a potential top-line fit for the final weeks of the season, but the answer will not turn out to be Rem Pitlick. Keeping him as an exploitation winger on the third or fourth line can allow him to use his speed to pressure opposing sides, but without the worry of having to defend against opposing teams’ top lines as well.
He is a restricted free agent heading into this off-season, and to get out ahead of any potential arguments, I am fully on the side of re-signing him. That comes with its own set of complications in terms of salary and term. He is 25 years old, and this is likely what he is as a player, barring a late development spurt. Given his career season, he’s going to be looking for a raise from what he made this year expecting even better things in the future, so the challenge for Hughes is going to be keeping the cost reasonable on any extension that reflects Pitlick’s true value.