The Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t expected to be in the market for blockbuster trades this season. Instead, it’s expected that general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas will be trying to make some minor tweaks to the roster which will impact not only the roster this season but also the team’s financial flexibility moving forward. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Dubas has been working the phones shopping forward Nick Ritchie on the trade market and recently these talks have picked up steam. Let’s take a look at a few teams who should be considered as potential suitors:
The Nashville Predators are a team to watch as we approach the March 21 trade deadline. They are among the league’s best teams with a 28-16-4 record and are one of the contending teams who actually have a boatload of salary cap space this season. The team has enjoyed a resurgence from centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen and could be in the market for some more depth on the wing.
Toronto and Nashville have a history of completing trades together as long-time Predators GM David Poile is always open to listen and won’t ever shy away from bold moves. This season seems to be a different buzz around Poile’s team as their goal was to just make the playoffs and it does seem like they won’t be doing anything too drastic. With that said, adding a player like Ritchie could be the type of “smaller” moves that help out their hockey club.
While it hasn’t been rainbows and butterflies for Ritchie playing with his old junior coach in Sheldon Keefe and in front of family and friends in Toronto, Dubas will be pointing to the fact the player was a huge part of the Boston Bruins’ third-line in 2020-21 where he scored 15 goals in 56 games. So far this season, it frankly hasn’t worked out as the Maple Leafs gave the 26-year-old ample time on the team’s top two lines out of training camp and he wasn’t able to perform on a consistent basis. If the Predators end up being interested in adding the 6-foot-2 winger expect to see a late-round pick heading north to Toronto.
Ritchie and the Ducks are very familiar with each other as he was Anaheim’s first-round selection, 10th overall at the 2014 entry draft. The team shipped him off to the Boston Bruins during the 2019-20 season as the Bruins were in the market for some more net front presence. The Ducks could potentially circle back here as not only are they familiar with Ritchie’s game, they are exceeding expectations and appear bound for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Besides the Ducks being in the postseason hunt and their familiarity with Ritchie’s game, they also have over $11 million in cap space to consider using for the rest of this season and have a number of pending free-agent wingers. The Maple Leafs signed the Orangeville, ON native to a two-year contract so there’s a bit of team control coming with being under contract for the 2022-23 season. Of Anaheim’s current forward group, only six have contracts for next season, fitting in Ritchie to their plans could be easily accomplished.
As for a return in the deal, Leafs Nation is screaming Josh Manson but as we all know, that’s not happening anytime soon as the Leafs would need to add much much more to the deal and don’t bother because Manson isn’t interested in waiving his no-trade protection for a deal to Toronto. Dubas and company may have to accept a mid-to-late round draft pick and potentially a mid-level forward prospect.
New York Rangers
When Ritchie was a free agent last summer there was a ton of interest and the New York Rangers were believed to be one of the many teams inquiring about his services. New York has been a team this season linked to several big trades and while this one would be on a smaller scale, it’s a deal that could potentially work.
The Rangers are sitting comfortably in a playoff position and have a ton of cap space to make some moves ahead of the deadline. Head coach Gerard Gallant loves his team to play tough and a physical style so Ritchie’s game could very well complement their group. While New York won’t be moving youngsters like Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere in this type of trade, a name of interest could be rugged defenseman Jarred Tinordi.
The 6-foot-6 former first-round pick is currently in the American Hockey League (AHL), making $900,000 against the salary cap and is signed through next season. It’s a potential deal that could give the Leafs some financial flexibility for more moves prior to the trade deadline this season and shed Ritchie’s $2.5 million for next season. It’s likely Tinordi would be sent down to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies after the transaction and be in the team’s back pocket should they require some more toughness or need a defenseman with NHL experience to plug into their lineup should someone go down with an injury. We’ve seen Jake Muzzin take a beating lately, it may be a good idea to collect some more depth on the blue line.
At the time, Ritchie and the Maple Leafs seemed like the perfect couple but it’s been everything but perfection since. The team gave him a chance on all four lines and he just wasn’t able to perform to their expectations on a consistent basis. Ritchie is now in play on the trade market and these three teams make sense as potential destinations. Leafs Nation, prepare yourselves as this could turn out to be a salary dump and not a very sexy trade.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween