With a healthy line-up, it looks like Nick Ritchie is the odd-man out for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Although I spoke about time off being a good thing for Nick Ritchie a few days ago, it looks as if I was wrong and his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs is coming to an end.
The Salary Cap is $81.5M, but as of today, the team is sitting at $82.283M (according to capfriendly.com). Prior to their game against the Ottawa Senators on January 1st, they’ll have to comply with the cap, so the only solution is to waive Nick Ritchie.
When the Leafs signed Nick Ritchie, the idea was for him to be a top-six winger and play alongside a combination of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and/or William Nylander. His big-frame was supposed to work well on a line filled with skill, as he could be the worker-bee in the corners and in front of the net.
As we enter 2022, the Nick Ritchie experiment has failed. The team took a chance on him, but with so many other options on the wing, and at a $2.5M AAV cap-hit, Ritchie is looking like the odd-man out.
Toronto Maple Leafs Will Probably Waive Nick Ritchie
At practice today, the team’s forward group was fully healthy for the first time all season and as reported by Jonas Siegel, here’s what they looked likeL:
Nick Ritchie was the 13th forward, as the team is giving Ilya Mikheyev a chance on the third line, while Pierre Engvall has deserved an opportunity on the fourth.
Money also has to come into question with this decision, as every forward in the bottom-six makes less money than Ritchie and is arguably better than him. Even if Engvall and Ritchie are a coin-flip, Engvall will win that battle based on his contract alone, as the Leafs need to save money against the salary cap.
With a $2.5M cap-hit, it’s very unlikely that someone will pick Ritchie up if he is in fact put on waivers. The most realistic thing is that he’ll clear waivers and play for the Toronto Marlies or be put on the Taxi Squad, to stay involved with the team.
Although the Ritchie contract hasn’t worked out, it’s an easy contract to bury in the minors and it’s only a two-year deal. The team will probably be able to trade him for a seventh-round pick or a prospect in the offseason if they don’t want him apart of the organization anymore, but at the end of day, it’s not going to hurt this team moving forward.
At the time of the signing, many people loved the thought of Ritchie in Toronto’s top-six, myself included, but it was just one of those signings that didn’t work out and that’s okay.
Fortunately, David Kampf, Michael Bunting, Ondrej Kase and Jason Spezza are all out-performing their deals so that the Ritchie contract doesn’t look as bad.