Among the unsigned restricted free agents, Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchie has flown relatively under the radar. With players like Shea Theodore, William Nylander and Darnell Nurse still embroiled in important contract negotiations, Ritchie hasn’t made many headlines despite not being with the Ducks as camp opened this week. Today, Anaheim GM Bob Murray told reporters including Eric Stephens of The Athletic that the two sides aren’t close on a deal. Stephens reports that Ritchie has been working out with the Guelph Storm of the OHL in order to be at least fit when a contract is eventually worked out.
Ritchie, 22, is coming off a disappointing season in which he recorded just 10 goals and 27 points. Expected to build upon the 14-goal 2016-17, he instead saw his shot generation decline despite a slight increase in ice time. The 10th-overall pick from 2014 could be a key piece for the Ducks moving forward if he can fulfill the huge, power forward potential he’s shown at times but he’ll have to get under contract first.
The question likely is whether or not Ritchie has proven enough to get a long-term deal like many of his draft contemporaries. While Nylander (8th overall) remains unsigned, Nikolaj Ehlers (9th), Dylan Larkin (15th), and David Pastrnak (25th) have all inked long-term deals after explosive performances. Ritchie hasn’t performed nearly as well as that group, but is still a valuable player that could be demanding some job security with a multi-year deal. The other option for both sides is a bridge contract, that would allow him to show that he’s a more potent offensive weapon before signing long-term, but at this point the Ducks have little incentive to give him a substantial raise on his entry-level contract.
Every day that Ritchie misses camp is another opportunity for one of the Ducks young forward prospects to impress the coaching staff and earn a role on the team. While holding out is part of the negotiation process for many restricted free agents, it’s hard to believe that Ritchie is standing on wholly stable ground at the moment. As head coach Randy Carlyle told Stephens today, the “longer a player misses camp, usually the worse it is for him.”