Bruins Free Agency: Two ex-Bruins sign with longtime rival

Mar 27, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

So far this offseason, the Boston Bruins have made some interesting moves. They elected to go with a lesser-known, bottom-pairing defenseman in Derek Forbort instead of one of the big names in Ryan Suter or Keith Yandle. Ultimately, I think general manager Don Sweeney made to correct choice here, going with the younger, more physical defenseman.

The B’s also completely overhauled their bottom-six forward group as they signed three veteran forwards in Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, and Erik Haula on Day 1 of Free Agency. All three are versatile and can play both wing and center. Which makes sense considering Boston doesn’t have a bonafide No. 2 center at the moment as David Krejci announced he will leaving the Black and Gold to return home to the Czech Republic to continue to his professional hockey career.

Another surprising move Sweeney made this offseason was changing his mind on restricted free agent (RFA) decisions. During his 2021 NHL Entry Draft media availability, Sweeney stated that RFAs Zach Senyshyn, Nick Ritchie, and Ondrej Kase would have their qualifying offers (QO) extended. However, only Senyshyn would be given a qualifying offer, allowing Ritchie and Kase to become unrestricted free agents (UFA).

This means that both Ritchie and Kase could sign anywhere without having to worry about the B’s matching the offer and retaining their rights. No offer sheets, just normal contract negotiations. Well, both Ritchie and Kase have found a new home in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase signing with the Maple Leafs could be a problem for the Bruins.

The 2021-22 season will bring back the normal NHL divisions. This means that the B’s and Leafs will once again be division rivals and will have to play each other several times throughout the 82-game season.

We very well could see Ritchie and Kase become Bruin-killers. In other words, they could end up playing very well against Boston and prove to be a thorn in the team’s side despite not having the best careers while with Boston.

Nick Ritchie, left wing

Ritchie started off his career in Boston slow, but rebounded in 2020-21 as he set a career-best in goals. He’s not the best skater (probably one of the worst if I’m being honest) in the NHL, but when he’s at his best he’s one of the more lethal net-front presences.

He’s almost useless at 5-on-5 hockey, but on the powerplay he’s good for knocking home rebounds in front of the net as well as some deflections. He’s also not afraid to drop the gloves to get the team going or defend a teammate, which made him a fan favorite — along with his goofy look.

Toronto giving Ritchie a two-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $2.5 million is a good deal for them. Ritchie will beef up their bottom-six as well as give them a nice net-front presence on the powerplay.

Ondrej Kase, right wing

Kase was supposed to be the answer for the B’s second-line wing issue, but he just couldn’t stay healthy to really show what he could do. Including regular season and playoffs, Kase only played 20 games with the B’s since being acquired by Boston at the 2020 trade deadline.

While he didn’t produce many points during that time, he showed to be a solid two-way right wing. He did all the little things right and played solid defense. On a one-year deal and at just $1.25 million, Kase is a low risk, high reward signing for the Leafs and will fit nicely on their third line if healthy.

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Overall, both deals are good for Tampa. Kase’s QO would’ve been $2.6 million, which is insane for someone that only played 20 games over the last two years and didn’t produce much offensively. The Leafs got him for much cheaper and around what he should’ve gotten. Ritchie’s QO was set to be $2 million. The Leafs are paying a bit more, but if the B’s extended his QO he most likely would’ve filed for arbitration and gotten around $2.5 million or even more.