Some gambles don’t pay off.
It was bound to happen. The Toronto Maple Leafs have placed left winger Nick Ritchie, who carries a cap hit of $2.5 million for this season and next, on waivers today. Ritchie has one goal and eight points in 30 games this season. He started the season with the opportunity of a lifetime next to Matthews and Marner, but he’s slowly and painfully creeped his way down the lineup into the 13th forward spot.
Nick Ritchie on waivers
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 6, 2022
If he gets claimed, the Leafs will have escaped from his cap-squeezing contract for good. Should he clear, he’ll likely be sent to the Toronto Marlies, with $1.375 million still on the cap as dead money with $1.125 million buried. That amount of savings should be enough to have Timothy Liljegren back on the roster (he’s been in COVID protocol since Dec 29th), and possibly a 22nd player if Brandon Pridham can work his magic.
This news should also indicate that Ondřej Kaše is close to a return after missing the most recent game. If not, the Leafs can call up Kyle Clifford or Alex Steeves to fill in.
As to the likelihood of Ritchie getting claimed at all, it’s pretty low considering his relatively high cap hit and the fact that he has a second year on his contract. If a team really liked what they saw before this season, they might let him pass through waivers and then send the Leafs a nothing asset in order to send him to their AHL team to start.
A lot has been said about Ritchie’s shooting luck, but he’s just been so slow, disengaged, and lethargic on the ice every shift. And I don’t just mean this literally, but he’s looked pointless in Toronto.