Alexandre Picard’s NHL career is still young, but he has already learned never to stray too far from his suitcase.

Since playing his final game with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2005, the 24-year-old has already been traded twice and skated as a regular on three different NHL blue-lines.

He originally broke into the big league with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2006-07. Buried on the Flyers’ depth chart in 2007-08, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning; then went to the Ottawa Senators at the start of last season.

He returns to the Metro Centre tonight with the Senators for a pre-season tilt with the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m.

“It’s always tough when you get traded, but you have to be realistic these days with the (salary) cap,” Picard said. “I think you’ll see more and more players getting dealt and you won’t see one player stay with one team for 20 years.”

Picard said the trades actually weren’t a bad thing because they allowed him to “show what I could do.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound native of Gatineau, Que., is coming off an injury-shortened campaign in which he scored six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 47 games. He partially tore his medial collateral ligament in February and missed the rest of the season, making tonight his first game in seven months.

“It was the first time I’d been out for so long. That took a toll on me,” Picard said. “It’s been a while since I played, so hopefully I can get back into the thick of things quickly.”

Picard, who hasn’t suited up at the Metro Centre since his final game with the Herd in 2005, is excited to return to his old stomping grounds, even though he won’t be skating through the old inflatable Moosehead this time around.

“It’s obviously going to be under a different context and I’m going to be focused as hell,” Picard said. “But it’s going to be cool. It’s a place I love to play and I (will) love to get back there. It will be really nice to do it with a Sens’ jersey on.”

Former Mooseheads goalie Pascal Leclaire could also be making his debut with the Senators tonight.

Leclaire, who was with the Mooseheads from 1998 to 2001, hasn’t played since Dec. 18 because of an ankle surgery. He was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to Ottawa after rookie Steve Mason took his starting job during his recovery.

Picard said Leclaire is healthy and a big reason for a sense of optimism surrounding the team.

“He’s going to establish himself as a real No. 1 and he’s really going to help us out a lot,” Picard said.

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