It seems that every July 1, Bruins GM Don Sweeney dips into the free agency bargain bin for a fourth line-type and he did it again on Monday by signing rugged Dallas Stars forward Brett Ritchie.
The B’s signed the 26-year-old Ritchie to a one-year, $1 million contract for the 2019-20 NHL season.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Ritchie scored 16 goals during the 2016-17 NHL season, but he’s known much more for his rugged play, hard-hitting style and the willingness to stand up for his teammates when it’s called for. It’s something the Bruins could have used a little more of from their fourth line at times last season, and Ritchie has shown at times in Dallas that he’s more than willing to do that.
Ritchie has fights with heavyweights like Colton Parayko and Tom Wilson on his NHL résumé and will definitely add to the Bruins' team toughness.
Given that the B's already have Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly signed for next season as well, it leaves in question exactly how 35-year-old David Backes is going to fit into a B’s team where a fourth-line role seems his most likely NHL job description at this point.
Last season, Ritchie had four goals and six points in 53 games for the Stars along with 57 penalty minutes, and he’s averaged five goals and 10 points over the last couple of seasons after popping for 16 goals a few years ago. It’s not really going to be about offense with Ritchie as much as it’s going to be about size, strength and rugged, physical play after the Bruins were pushed around by the St. Louis Blues a bit during the Stanley Cup Final.
The Ritchie contract with the Bruins is a bit of a pay cut for him as he’s coming off a two-year, $3.5 million contract he signed with Dallas a few years ago, and puts him in the Joakim Nordstrom/Riley Nash bargain signing category the Bruins have utilized with good success in every NHL free-agency period.
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