Are Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie some sort of secret package deal?
The Maple Leafs confirmed that they signed Nick Ritchie for two years, at a $2.5 million cap hit. Toronto’s terms with Kase were also revealed: one-year, $1.25M.
Low-risk Maple Leafs signings of Kase, Ritchie could be fruitful
The Maple Leafs do employ one of the NHL’s most robust analytics staffs, however, so it’s not surprising to see the occasional savvy move. (Even if such transactions intermingle with the sort of gritty, veteran additions that are “200 Hockey Men” approved.)
In the cases of Kase and Ritchie, you could make some decent “fancy stats” arguments for each Maple Leafs signing.
First and foremost, they’re low-risk moves, as opposed to the first-day-frenzy we saw with other free-agent signings. There’s also some decent underlying metrics.
With Ritchie, he’s someone who can please crusty old-school types who want some physicality. At the same time, he’s generally someone whose positive results can also be, you know, tangible. Granted, it’s a debate as to whether or not his penchant for penalties poisons a portion of his positives.
Ritchie is a solid middle six winger who will test Toronto's penalty killing efficiency greatly this season. pic.twitter.com/fzirZZDGtP
— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) July 31, 2021
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs aren’t gambling all that much on what could be a good bet.
While the bad news with Ritchie is penalties, Ondrej Kase simply couldn’t stay in the Bruins lineup. After being limited to six games after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, Kase appeared in just three regular-season games for the Bruins in 2021-22.
Ritchie on teammate Kase and his injury stuff: I think he's doing a lot better and he's getting past the point and he's going to be able to stay healthy for a long period of time. The #Leafs and the fans are going to love him.
— David Alter (@dalter) July 31, 2021
Spending a first-rounder in the Kase trade stings, even if that swap got David Backes off the books.
That’s not the Maple Leafs’ problem, though. For them, they cross their fingers that Kase can be the player he was before injuries piled up, or at least someone close to that.
Ondrej Kase, signed 1x$1.25M by TOR, was shaping up to be an excellent two-way scorer when he got hit by awful injury problems. Low-risk move by the Leafs with a lot of upside if he can get/stay healthy. #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/5YfFNyJ53t
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 31, 2021
An especially optimistic Maple Leafs fan might dream of Kase (or Ritchie) replacing much of what they lost with Zach Hyman. That may be too much, but there’s a decent chance the two deliver (maybe over-deliver) on their modest contracts.
And, hey, it doesn’t hurt that the Maple Leafs added prime-age players. Both Kase and Ritchie are 25.
There's a theme to #leafs free-agent signings: Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase and Michael Bunting are all entering their 26-year-old season. Each can be viewed as an upside bet that carries top-six potential for a spot alongside the Core Four.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 31, 2021
Strong stuff. Maybe Dubas isn’t an analytics GM overall, but he wore that costume on Saturday.