Has Nick Ritchie played his final game as a Leaf?

Published January 31, 2022 at 7:54 PM
BY MIKE ARMENTI
As we head into the first half of a back-to-back against the New Jersey Devils in a home and away series between the Devils and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nick Ritchie finds himself in a familiar spot, skating as an extra at practice on Monday morning and a healthy scratch against the Devils on Monday night.

Ritchie's tenure in Toronto has not started off well, which is unfortunate considering the fact that he signed a 2-year, $5M deal with the Leafs as an unrestricted free agent over the summer after not being qualified by the Boston Bruins.

The expectations were high for Ritchie coming into the season after he scored 15 goals in 56 games for the Bruins last year, reaching new career highs in goals (15), power play goals (5) and average time on ice (15:22).

Ritchie received an unbelievable opportunity to elevate his game when he was placed on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to start the season. Needless to say, that plan never worked out as intended and Ritchie quickly began to descend down the depth chart on the left wing in Toronto, posting the worst numbers in his career since his rookie year in Anaheim, and winding up on waivers on January 6th.


If Ritchie does not draw back into the Leafs' lineup on Tuesday night in New Jersey, he may not play another game as a Leaf. The reason for this is because NHL taxi squads will cease to exist this week, with the NHL's COVID-19 testing policies changing in February. Now, instead of testing daily, teams will only test symptomatic players.

Since Ritchie has already cleared waivers, he can be assigned to the AHL's Toronto Marlies without having to clear again. If called up after the All-Star break, Ritchie would need to clear waivers once again, since his 30 days will have expired from the last time that he cleared.

The Leafs had likely been hard at work to find Ritchie a new home until COVID-19 and injuries decimated the Leafs' roster, requiring more of an "all hands on deck" approach to navigate through a very rough December. It's probable that Kyle Dubas has continued working to find Ritchie and his $2.5M cap hit a fresh start in a new city to help clear some cap space.

I firmly believe that Ritchie is on his way out of Toronto. If not for his lack of production, then certainly for the cap savings that moving on from the Orangeville, ON native would provide.
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