The waiver wire brought Rem Pitlick back home to Minnesota, but his used Nissan Pathfinder literally got him here.
Pitlick started a 13 ½ hour drive from Nashville to St. Paul on Tuesday, stopping overnight in Quincy, Ill., before arriving at Xcel Energy Center Wednesday evening to take in the Wild's preseason game.
By Thursday, the forward was on the ice with his new teammates to officially kick off his fresh start with the Wild.
"Kind of a whirlwind," Pitlick said.
A late addition to training camp, Pitlick was plucked off waivers by the Wild on Tuesday to wrap his brief stint with the Predators after the former Gopher played just 11 games with Nashville.
And although the 24-year-old from Plymouth is returning to familiar surroundings and grew up a Wild fan, Pitlick is here on business.
"It's a homecoming, cool, but I haven't made it yet," he said, "and I'm ready to work and try to earn this opportunity."
Pitlick will get that chance to prove himself with the Wild.
General Manager Bill Guerin said Pitlick is sticking on the roster, a decision that likely means only one other forward spot is up for grabs. Guerin didn't see a hole that needed to be filled during camp but instead saw Pitlick's acquisition as the addition of "a good young player" that improves the organization's depth. Pitlick is also on a team-friendly, one-year contract.
"In talking to people that know him well like Bob Motzko at the U, they have great things to say about his character and his passion for the game," Guerin said, "and there's very little risk.We just thought it made a lot of sense."
This also isn't an unfamiliar situation for Pitlick, who faced a similar transition when he played for the Gophers from 2016-2019 after growing up watching them on TV.
"It's like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm here. It's amazing. People are texting me. People want tickets, all that stuff," said Pitlick, who received plenty of texts and calls after he changed NHL addresses. "But I was able to kind of figure out how to not be distracted during that time."
Already, he's talked with his dad Lance, a former NHLer, who relayed stories about how challenging it is to play at home and Pitlick said he's taking his return "very seriously" even though he's excited and called joining the Wild an "amazing feeling."
After he gets another skate in with the Wild on Friday, the plan is for Pitlick to appear in the team's final preseason game Saturday at Chicago. That should determine where he fits into the lineup, with Pitlick telling Guerin his hockey sense, playmaking abilities and quickness are among his best attributes.
While he has just two assists in the NHL, Pitlick racked up eight goals in eight minor-league games last season and had 20 goals in 63 games in 2019-20 with Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate.
"I've been picked up, but I don't expect anything," said Pitlick, who was drafted by the Predators in the third round in 2016. "I'm here to work. I haven't fully established myself in the NHL. So, I'm coming here to work and see if I can earn an opportunity."
The Wild's next game at Xcel Energy Center will be its home opener on Oct.19 against Winnipeg, and tickets are still available.
Owner Craig Leipold acknowledged earlier this week that the Delta variant of COVID-19 "has not been positive for us," and "there's a reluctancy to come back in a big arena.
"Let's just see how it plays out."
Unlike last season when attendance was limited, Xcel Energy Center is back to full capacity for Wild games and fans are requestedbut not requiredto wear a mask. The Wildalsodoesn't require proof of vaccines or negative tests to attend games.
The Wild assigned forwards Mitchell Chaffee, Joseph Cramarossa, Connor Dewar, Nick Swaney and Dominic Turgeon and defensemen Joe Hicketts and Jon Lizotte to the American Hockey League (AHL).
Chaffee, Cramarossa, Swaney, Turgeon and Hicketts were recalled Wednesday from Iowa to play in that night's preseason game.
The Wild also placed goalie Andrew Hammond and forward Kyle Rau on waivers, and they'll be sent to Iowa on Friday if they clear.