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Betting on Bruins? Maple Leafs snatch Kase, Ritchie from bargain bin

Betting on Bruins? Maple Leafs snatch Kase, Ritchie from bargain bin

BOSTON, MA - MAY 31: Nick Ritchie #21 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the TD Garden on May 31, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Are Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie some sort of secret package deal?

During the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, the Bruins acquired Kase, then traded for Ritchie three days later. This time around, it’s the Maple Leafs who invested in Kase and Ritchie, both on Saturday.

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

Back in late May, Patrick Bacon persuasively argued that Kyle Dubas “is not an analytics GM.”

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.

[2021 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

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.

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.

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.

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.

Strong stuff. Maybe Dubas isn’t an analytics GM overall, but he wore that costume on Saturday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.