While his preseason moves get more attention, General Manager Bill Armstrong didn’t stop tinkering with the Arizona Coyotes when the puck dropped for the regular season. If he thought he could make the team better, he was going to do it.
Case in point, midway through February, he sent Ryan Dzingel and Ilya Lyubushkin to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Nick Ritchie.
Games Played*: 24
TOI/Games Played: 13:41
PP TOI: 42:52
PK TOI: 0:00
*Coyotes games only
Thanks to his time with the Anaheim Ducks, Ritchie was a familiar face for Coyotes fans. But Ritchie really seemed to break out during the 2020-21 season with the Boston Bruins, which saw him record 15 goals and 11 assists in 56 games.
Unfortunately, Ritchie’s play in Boston didn’t translate to his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had difficulty cracking the lineup in the first year of a two-year contract, and before being traded, he only had two goals and seven assists in 33 games with the Leafs. Funnily enough, Ritchie’s last game with the Maple Leafs was a January 12th matchup against the Arizona Coyotes.
But a change of scenery seemed like it was all Ritchie needed. Ritchie didn’t take long to show what he could do with the Desert Dogs. In his second game with the team, he registered a goal and an assist against the Winnipeg Jets.
Ritchie was one of the players who needed to step up when Clayton Keller went down. Ritchie had a goal in the game that Keller was hurt and scored two goals and two assists in the final eight games.
Ritchie got some decent power play time between the Coyotes and Maple Leafs. Unfortunately, he failed to register a single point on the power play, although he did have six shots.
The Coyotes need all the scoring they can get. Ritchie provides some much-needed secondary offense and will hopefully give the Coyotes offense beyond Keller, Nick Schmaltz, and Lawson Crouse.
Ritchie has one more year left on his deal and carries a cap hit of $2.5 million. However, he will be getting paid slightly more, and his contract has a $3.3 million base salary for next season.
Ritchie was able to come into a depleted team and find a place on the roster. Next year he will be with the team from the beginning, and hopefully, preseason and training camp should help Ritchie fit in even better with the team.
If Ritchie can replicate his success last season, over a full 82-game season with the Coyotes, he should be a solid supporting piece for the Coyotes moving forward. But the Coyotes’ lineup remains mostly question marks, so we can’t be sure what line Ritchie will be on.