The Bruins and Ducks have become trade allies over the past few days. After the Bruins landed right winger Ondrej Kase from the Ducks Friday, they obtained left winger Nick Ritchie from the Ducks Monday for left winger Danton Heinen.
The Bruins already have Nick’s older brother Brett, who flamed out as an off-season signing and has been demoted to AHL Providence. In Nick, they get the higher-pedigree brother, whom the Ducks selected 10th overall in the 2014 draft. Ritchie, 24, hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling of a top-tier power forward and net-front presence, but he brings something useful as a depth addition. He’s a load to knock off the puck at 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds. He’s a physical forechecker who uses his weight to his advantage. In three seasons leading up to this one, among 414 forwards who played 1,000-plus minutes at 5-on-5, Ritchie ranked 21st in hits per 60 minutes, one spot ahead of brother Brett. Needless to say, Ritchie plays Boston Bruins hockey. He can also score enough to be an interesting fit on, say, the third line. He averages 12 goals per 82 games in his career. Theoretically, he has potential as a net-front guy on the power play, but he never really got an opportunity to blossom in that role as a Duck. In his 287 games with them, he logged 0:58 per game on the power play, placing him 395 among 955 forwards. Might the Bruins try Ritchie in that role at some point, even on the second unit?
From the Ducks perspective, Heinen makes sense as arguably a higher-upside add. He’s just a few months older than Ritchie and, like Ritchie, is under contract through the end of 2020-21 before becoming an RFA. Playing on some powerhouse Bruin teams, Heinen hasn’t gotten a look in a major role, averaging just 14:22 of ice time while typically bouncing around somewhere in the middle six on the left or right wing. He’s been a productive playmaker with the opportunities he’s been given, averaging 1.7 points per 60 minutes on 5-on-5. That places him in the same tier as Kevin Labanc, Jared McCann, Patric Hornqvist and Kyle Palmieri. Heinen thus deserves a look in a long-term top-six role. The Ducks, in the middle of a rebuild, are a team who can give him that chance. Their best forward prospects, Trevor Zegras and Isac Lundestrom, are centers, so Heinen can fortify the wings in the long term alongside Max Comtois and Max Jones. Heinen’s confidence was reportedly waning in Boston – he hadn’t scored a goal in 15 games leading up to Monday’s trade – but maybe a new environment can light a spark.
Cap wise, the shift from Heinen’s $2.8-million AAV to Ritchie’s mark just below $1.5 million gives the Bruins a bit of breathing room, not just in the present, but also in the summer, which will help them sign pending RFA left winger Jake DeBrusk.
It’s not the sexiest trade for either side, but it’s a case of each player being a better fit for his new team’s plans than he was for his old one’s.
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