The waiver-wire was a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated by the NHL Players’ Association to ensure that a player who is good enough for the league, is not penalized by being sent to the minors because he plays on a deep team. It was created so that the said player gets a chance at playing in the NHL on a team that perhaps isn’t quite as deep. It is one system that has worked well for many players over the years.
One of the best waiver pick-up in the last decade or so was Paul Byron. When playing for the Calgary Flames, a team deep at the forward position, they tried sending him down to their AHL affiliate. Marc Bergevin, then GM of the Montreal Canadiens, put a claim on Byron who then made his way to Montreal. Since then, Byron not only stuck to the NHL without ever playing a single AHL game, but he turned his career around by finding a niche with the Canadiens.
Since being picked off waivers, Byron has played 364 regular season’s games with the Canadiens. He has managed 78 goals, 77 assists for 155 points, placing him sixth on the team in scoring. He is also a plus-28 player in that time span, and has been one of the NHL’s best penalty killers as well. He has also scored a team-leading 9 goals while his team was short-handed.
Selected in the third round, 76th overall by the Nashville Predators at the 2016 NHL Draft, Rem Pitlick had only managed to play 11 games for the Predators when, on October 5th, 2021, the Minnesota Wild claimed him off waivers. He played a total of 20 games for the Wild, managing 6 goals and 11 points in the meantime. Surprisingly, he was once again placed on waivers when the Canadiens, in the midst of a rash of injuries and players on the NHL’s COVID protocol, claimed him on January 12, 2022.
Since then, Pitlick is averaging 0.53 points per game, tied for 6th on the Habs with Josh Anderson, Jeff Petry (who has been hot lately), Mike Hoffman and Artturi Lehkonen. He is averaging 15:44 minutes of ice time per game, similar ice time as Cole Caufield, Jonathan Drouin and Christian Dvorak.
Pitlick is a good skater with low center of gravity. Standing at 5-foot 11-inches and 196 lbs, he has a strong lower body and is hard to knock off the puck. He has produced offensively at every level that he’s played at and while he may never equal his offensive production from the minor leagues, the 24 year-old Ottawa native can still contribute offensively, as he’s shown so far at the NHL level, managing 21 points (10 goals) in 46 career games so far.
Pitlick could very well be the next Paul Byron and if he does, it will be yet another steal by the Montreal Canadiens, by Jeff Gorton this time. Ironically, Byron is also an Ottawa native…
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