While there hasn’t been a formal trade request, the Maple Leafs are working on trying to find a new home for Nick Ritchie, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in the latest 32 Thoughts segment (video link). While nothing is imminent, he notes that there has been some traction on trying to find a taker for the winger.
Ritchie was non-tendered by Boston last summer and quickly signed a two-year, $5MM deal with Toronto. It’s a move that hasn’t panned out well as the 26-year-old has just two goals and seven assists in 33 games which resulted in him clearing waivers last month. Once the taxi squads were dissolved following the All-Star break, he was sent to Toronto of the AHL although he has yet to suit up with the Marlies.
With a $2.5MM AAV for next season as well, the Maple Leafs will almost certainly have to either retain money or take a contract back since teams passed up on taking him for free recently. A complicating factor will be next year’s buyout cost. Because Toronto back-loaded the contract, the cost of a buyout would only be $300K next season (although it jumps to $1.1MM for 2023-24). Friedman notes that Toronto would be hesitant to retain more than $300K in a trade as a result.
The Maple Leafs have more than $74MM in commitments for next season to just 14 players, per CapFriendly, a figure that includes Ritchie’s $1.375MM revised cap hit when he’s in the minors. The salary cap is only going to go up to $82.5MM at most and even that may be optimistic so that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for them to round out their roster, especially with goaltender Jack Campbell among the players eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. As a result, finding a way to free up any sort of extra cap room would go a long way. Ritchie won’t carry much trade value but if they can find a way to save even a little bit of cap space, it’s an option that GM Kyle Dubas will need to seriously consider.