The Nick Ritchie experiment with the Toronto Maple Leafs appears to be over, with the club placing the forward on waivers today.
Ritchie joined the Leafs after posted a respectable 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 56 regular season games with the Boston Bruins, earning the highest-paying contract of his career in the process.
Unfortunately, the deal has not panned out in the way that many hoped it would, with Ritchie struggling to make much of an impact on the Leafs’ roster despite starting in the offensive zone 57.2% of the time.
In 30 games with the Leafs, Ritchie has scored just one goal (in a 5-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets one month ago) and has just eight total points – a far cry from the kind of production the Leafs hoped to be getting.
Ritchie has found his playing time largely in a bottom six role, averaging just 12:14 of ice time so far this season – with the Leafs’ 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers last night seeing the Orangeville, Ontario native max out at a season-low 7:31.
If Ritchie is claimed, giving him an opportunity to rediscover his form with a fresh start elsewhere in the league, it would alleviate $2.5 million in cap space for the Leafs.
If, however, Ritchie goes unclaimed and is placed on the Leafs’ taxi squad, which could be the most likely outcome, the Leafs will still make $1.125 million in cap savings – a necessary measure as the team looks to fit all of their returning players under the cap once again.
Another alternative could see Ritchie spend some time in the AHL with the club’s affiliates, the Toronto Marlies.
This scenario would give the 26-year-old an opportunity to play big minutes and regain some confidence in his own abilities once again, potentially seeing him return to the NHL line-up further along in the season with renewed energy.
It would be a shame if Ritchie and the Leafs were not able to build a fruitful partnership. If the big-bodied forward’s time with the team is truly over, the hope will be that he can go on to recapture success on a different team and increase his playing time.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, however, this is a situation that many have seen coming for quite some time and will be one to simply move on from if he is indeed claimed by another team.