Toronto Maple Leafs: Going Big, Bad, and Bruin with Free Agent Signings

The Toronto Maple Leafs are going Big, Bad, and Bruin!

The team announced Friday night and Saturday morning the Toronto Maple Leafs and Kyle Dubas made the call to sign Bruin Wingers Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase of the Boston Bruins.

Kase, one year with a cap hit of $1.25 Million, and Ritchie, two years carrying a cap hit of $2.5 million.

Both the Wingers were RFA’s ahead of free agency but to much surprise, both were left unqualified by the Bruins. (capfriendly.com).

Ondrej Kase and The Toronto Maple Leafs

Ondrej Kase, Drafted 205th Overall in 2014 was a promising young talent in the Anaheim Ducks Organization before being shipped off to Boston in February of 2020 for a package including Veteran David Backes, Axel Andersson (2nd Round pick in 2018), and a first-round pick in 2020.

Although the praise and hype were there for Kase to bring it in Boston, he was just another victim of a covid shortened season appearing in only 6 games. He would follow up that up with an undeniably disappointing season where yet another concussion took a toll for the rest of his season. Kase previously suffered another concussion in the 2018-19 season with the Ducks.

Kase would only end up playing in 3 NHL games this season and put up 0 points (all stats hockeydb.com).

As far are his game? Well before the injuries, many projected and viewed Kase as a skilled high production middle-six forward. And in the right situation, that’s exactly what he is, but we all know the toll a concussion can take on a player and their development.

Now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are taking a risk-free chance on the 25-year-old Czech Native with a 1 year $1.25 Million deal. Dubas and the Leafs are giving him the opportunity to get his feet back under him and work his way back into the NHL on a competitive and contending team.

What does this mean for the Leafs? Well, it’s a risk-free depth option that gives coaching staff depth and options. Versatility. Nothing a team can have too much of. If it works out, great! The Toronto Maple Leafs hold his RFA rights at the end of the 2021-22 season if they choose to keep him. If it doesn’t work, ship him out. At the $1.25 million cap hit, Kase is a very movable deal.

Nick Ritchie and The Toronto Maple Leafs

Nick Ritchie, a Toronto native as well as a former 10th overall pick in 2014, much like Kase, was drafted by the Ducks. He was then traded to Boston in February of 2020 in a deal that saw Danton Heinen going the other way.

Saturday morning the deal was reported by Elliotte Freidman as a 2-year contract carrying an AAV of 2.5 million.

Last year, in 56 games Ritchie scored 15 goals and 26 points while adding 4 points in 11  games with the Bruins in the Playoffs. What can we expect from Ritchie? Standing at 6’2″, and 230 lbs, Ritchie is widely known as the modern-day power forward.

On the power play, he is the net front presence that rarely never leaves, something the Leafs could use as an option on both powerplay options. You can almost think of him as almost a bootleg JVR to bang home shots and rebound from just in front of the crease.

Oh, and did I mention he played for the Soo Greyhounds while Sheldon Keefe was a coach there? Big surprise right…

Previously with the signings of Michael Bunting, David Kampf, and Brett Seney, there was a pattern from the Toronto Maple Leafs and their signings that was starting to form. All these players have been signed heading into their 26-year-old season just as they’re getting into the prime of their career. The signings of Ritchie and Kase follow that same pattern and I for one could not be happier.

All of these signings, Bunting, Seney, Kampf, Kase, and Ritchie all provide depth. Options for Dubas and Keefe to play with. Besides Ritchie, none of the contracts are above $1.5 million which makes them movable and versatile. Easily buriable. They’re smart moves. Risk-free.

Dubas and Keefe can be made fun of for liking their Soo guys and coming back to them consistently, but really are you going to complain? These are by no means bad signings.

It may be time to actually give praise to Dubas for his moves in free agency. Low money deals. Hard-hitting players. Hard-working. Really, what more can you ask for? Be excited Leaf fans, this team is going to be different and I think we’re going to like it.