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Maple Leafs’ Nick Ritchie? Lots of Questions, Not So Many Answers

What should the Toronto Maple Leafs do with forward Nick Ritchie? He has under-performed for his salary. Should they trade or waive him?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a bit of a conundrum with hard-luck forward Nick Ritchie. During the offseason, they signed him to a two-year $2.5 million per season contract. Ritchie came with a reputation of not being the fastest player, but he also had the reputation that he could score. In fact, with the Boston Bruins in 56 games last season, he scored 15 goals. This season, he’s scored a single goal in 29 games.

Related: Maple Leafs Use COVID-19 Break to Run with Jack Campbell in Goal

What to Do With Ritchie? Is Waivers an Answer?

What should the Maple Leafs do with Ritchie? He didn’t play against the Ottawa Senators on January 1, and the team scored a 6-0 victory. He’s obviously struggling.

Is there a chance that the Maple Leafs would put Ritchie on waivers with the hope of sending him to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Would Ritchie be willing to go to the Marlies, with the hope that he could get his game back and get some confidence to return to the Maple Leafs?

There Would Be Useful Savings If Ritchie Cleared Waivers

Should Ritchie clear waivers, he could be sent to the Marlies, and $1.1 million of his salary-cap hit could be saved.  The team would still have to keep $1.4 million of his $2.5 million contract because that would count towards the salary-cap limits. The NHL CBA rules that, when a player who earns less than $1.1 million is waived, the team gets the value of their contract subtracted from their salary-cap hit. For anyone who makes over $1.1 million, the difference between their salary and $1.1 million still counts against the cap.

Or, would another team pick him up off waivers? And, if he were claimed, would that work out OK for the Maple Leafs? Would it be one way to dump his salary? To do that, it would also be likely that the organization has given up on him being a part of the team going forward.

What If the Maple Leafs Lost Ritchie to Another Team?

If the Maple Leafs did lose Ritchie on waivers, they would also “lose” his $2.5 million salary-cap hit. That would give the team plenty of extra money to keep both young Swedish defensemen – Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Lilgegren – playing regularly. As it is now, both young defensemen are waiver exempt, and moving one of them back and forth to the Toronto Marlies is easy. It also keeps the team under the salary-cap limit now that Mitch Marner is back from being on LTIR.

Could Ritchie Get Hot and Make My Questions Irrelevant?

This season, Ritchie has been the worst regular Maple Leafs’ forward in production according to the analytics. However, he’s only in 29 games. Is that is a large enough sample to base how good a player is? Who’s to say he doesn’t get hot, and go on a goal-scoring run? He could do that.

Will the fact that Ritchie sat out the Senators’ game be what he needs to get him going? In this crazy game where confidence matters so much, you never know. Or could the Maple Leafs trade him for a low draft choice and retain – say – $1 million of his salary and save enough money to play both Sandin and Liljegren?

As I say, so many questions but few answers.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits: Matthews, Tavares & Kase

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Afp1961

    January 5, 2022 at 8:44 am

    Have written all season that bathe Ritchie signing was not a good one. Ritchie is slow afoot with mediocre hands and built for a more dump and chase team that the free wheeling possession style of leafs play.

    I’d be happy if he was claimed on waivers. You see guys like James Neal and Rask placed on waivers. Both are better and carry bigger cap hits and yet their respective teams have decided that waivers is the best option.

    I am not hung up on gaining anything back for Ritchie. After all he was signed as a UFA. The 2.5m in free cap space is far more valuable and would grow exponentially by the time trade deadline comes around such that the leafs can go after a 5m type RHD or LW2.

    • Old Prof

      January 5, 2022 at 9:27 am

      Good point about him being a UFA – lost nothing for him – thanks for adding.

  2. oldleaffan

    January 5, 2022 at 9:02 am

    As far as I am concerned Ritchie has had a good time to prove himself, it has been over a quarter of the season. We need the guys that have shown more promise and produced better to take his place. We are not a developing team, but one that thinks it can compete for the cup. Maybe his cap space can add a player at the trade deadline.

    • Old Prof

      January 5, 2022 at 9:28 am

      Thanks for weighing in on the thoughts here – I’m not in disagreement –

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  7. John Volo

    January 7, 2022 at 4:01 am

    His style may be better suited for the playoffs when the going gets rough and the cherrypeckers lose their whistles.

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